Cargo movement to and from Cochin port has come to standstill for the past
five days as the container lorry drivers persisted with their indefinite strike,
rejecting the plea from the Port' stakeholders and port users to end the
Besides the numerous hartals which the state saw for the past few months
affecting the cargo movement, this is the fourth strike that has paralysed the
Port in 2017. No other port in the country has such a poor track record in
industrial relations like Cochin where workers go on strike at the slightest
The first strike stretched from March 31 to April 5. It was called to
protest a hike in insurance premium. Yet
another strike hit the Port on April 19. It was called by Cochin Port Labour
Union. Two months later in July, another strike, which went on for four days
from July 9 to 12, was called regarding parking-related issues. There were many
instances when strike calls were fended off through discussions.
Affecting cargo movement
The frequent strikes have badly affected the movement of cargo and this has
subsequently led to a delay in delivery. The exim-community had time and again
expressed their apprehension over the series of strikes that were adversely
affecting the cargo movement. But it seems the Cochin Port is reluctant to shed
its infamous tag as the Port of Uncertainty, say stakeholders.
The ongoing strike has been called by the BJP controlled Container Thozhilali
Sangham (BMS) against the alleged harassment that the Motor Vehicle Department
(MVD) is meting out on the crew of the lorries. The motor vehicles department
is controlled by CPIM.
“The drivers are slapped with a fine and their licences are being suspended
by MVD. They allege the vehicles have been overloaded. Since August this year,
MVD has cancelled the licence of six drivers and notices have been issued to
several others. Though there exists an option to file an appeal against the
notice, the entire exercise is a farce claim the union.
The licence still remains suspended.
As a result, the crew, mostly comprising drivers, who earn an average amount of
Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 per month, are forced out of their jobs. Since the
licence gets suspended for six months, they have to remain jobless for the
entire period,” said Dhaneesh Neerikode, president of the union.
Around 1,800 trailers are keeping off the road as part of the strike.
Dhaneesh said the strike called by BMS has the silent support of other unions
also. “Though other unions have not openly supported our strike, all are part
of the agitation since this issue is faced by each and every lorry crew,” he
said. The union is also demanding a compensation for drivers who lost their
jobs after their licences got suspended.
Concerned by the series of strikes, the Cochin Steamer Agents’ Association
has demanded to exempt shipping trade from strikes and hartals. “It kills jobs
and aspirations as well as the economy and region. Losses in shipping are compounded
since a major share of cargo falls under the perishable category.
While the state government is trying hard to improve the ease of doing
business, these unlawful strikes aimed at getting political mileage are
affecting the prospects not only of the state but also the country also,”
Steamer Agents’ Association office-bearers said. The Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
too agrees and said the shipping sector should be exempted from the strike.
According to ICCI president Rajesh Agarwal, the issue pertaining to the weight
of the cargo is understandable, but it is unfortunate that the shipping sector
has to suffer for this.
“It may be noted that the issues in this regard are mainly caused by the
coastal cargo movement and not actually by the shipping sector. The damage
caused is many times higher than what it does to the local cargo movement,”
Agarwal said. “Cochin Port already has a black mark in the international market
due to the number of hartals and strikes which delays the cargo movement. This
is a sensitive time period as far as Cochin Port is concerned, especially with
the tax issues and new ports coming up. It will hurt us all in the long run if
we do not take necessary measures to safeguard the interests of the shipping
sector in all possible ways,” the Chamber said
Though the strike lasted five days, DP World, which operates the
International Container Transshipment Terminal, claimed the cargo movement has
not been affected in a big way. “The terminal operations are going on, though
there has been a slight effect on the arrival and exit of containers,” said