India’s Dockworkers Planning Nationwide Strike

India’s labour unions, representing dockworkers employed at major ports, have announced an indefinite nationwide industrial action starting April 19, 2017.

The ports that are likely to be affected by the strike are Kolkata, Paradip, Visakhapatnam, Chennai, Tuticorin, Cochin, New Mangalore, Mumbai, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Kandla and Marmugao.

JNPT port authorities have already been given notice by dockworker unions.

The strike is targeting changes proposed in the Major Ports Authority Bill 2016 aimed at restructuring the country’s port system.

The workers are demanding job security in addition to protection of existing and retirement benefits.

The bill is aimed at reorienting the governance model in central ports to landlord port model. The new bill also allows leasing of land for port related use for up to 40 years.

The move to decentralization comes as India endeavors to boost the competitiveness of its ports, starting with Jawaharlal Nehru Port which is about to undergo a major deepening project so as to be able to receive 12,500 TEU containerships. The port currently handles vessels with a capacity of up to 6,000 TEUs.

To that end, earlier this month, JNPT awarded a joint venture of Royal Boskalis Westminster and Jan De Nul with a USD 250 million contract for the deepening and widening of the access channel towards Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai.

The works are scheduled to commence in the coming weeks and will be completed within two years, Boskalis said.

According to India’s Ministry of Shipping, the country’s twelve publicly-owned ports handled a record 647.43 million tons of traffic in 2016-17, registering an annual growth rate of 6.79 percent,  against 4.32 percent last year.

The top position in cargo handling was retained by Kandla Port that handled 105.44 mt of cargo, up by 5.39% over last year. This was followed by Paradip Port with 88.95 mt, Mumbai Port with 63 mt and JNPT that posted a record of 4.50 million TEUs.

Iron-ore traffic recorded a growth rate of 163.67% while other miscellaneous and general cargo grew by 18.53% and POL products by 8.16%, the ministry’s data shows.

Furthermore, JNPT raised USD 400 million in foreign loan thus becoming the first major port in the country to raise foreign currency loans. Kamarajar Port Limited (Ennore) is also in the process of raising USD 100 million foreign currency loan, the ministry added.

World Maritime News Staff

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