The Sri Lanka Navy was called in on Saturday, December 10, to intervene and free two merchant vessels which had been held hostage for several days by port workers at the Hambantota Port.
The port workers reportedly staged a protest campaign against the government’s plans to privatize the Hambantota Port.
They were obstructing the operations of merchant vessels berthed alongside the jetty and the adjacent facilities by using heavy machinery and gantry cranes to block the movement of ships, according to the navy.
The protesters reportedly prevented the two ships, K Line’s car carrier Hyperion Highway and the general cargo ship MV Hoyanger, to complete their operations and leave the port. The navy said that the actions taken by the port workers are ”a grave violation of International laws and norms which could be treated as an act of piracy, whereas the punishments are very severe in nature.”
The naval personnel entered the Hambantota harbour premises by naval craft via the sea passage and boarded the two ships and brought the situation under control having laid a cordon around the jetty area.
Moreover, the navy personnel also escorted the Hyperion Highway out of the port after the vessel had been held there for four days.
”As a result of above sabotage carried out by port employees the Shipping agent of ‘Hyperion Highway’ had to incur a total demurrage of USD 400,000 for the last 4 days of non-operation,” the navy said.
The car carrier is currently en route to Oman.
The MV Hoyanger is still berthed at the pier and is waiting for the situation at the port to normalize to unload its cargo, according to the navy.