Functioning of Cochin Port Trust (CPT) was further hit as the 12-hour hartal on the port premises called by private sector workers, who have been on an indefinite strike, brought things to an absolute standstill on Friday.

The cargo movement to and from the CPT had been remaining frozen since the strike under the aegis of the Trade Union Coordination Committee was launched on Tuesday midnight. The striking workers demand, among other things, job protection and development of Kochi Port as a domestic cargo hub once the container operations are shifted to Vallarpadam Island.

Harbour Police arrested 35-odd striking workers as they took out a protest march in the morning. They were later released in the afternoon.

A spokesman for the Steamer Agents’ Association said that the strike coupled with hartal has completely paralyzed the functioning of the port. Offices in the Willingdon Island remain closed as violent incidents of Thursday further scared away the employees. CPT authorities, however, said that its offices functioned as normal.

Meanwhile, CPT Chairman N. Ramachandran will interact with media persons on Saturday at 11 a.m. This will be followed by a visit to the International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT), Vallarpadam.

The Steamer Agents’ Association had written to the Chief Minister urging his immediate intervention after protesting workers stoned its office on Thursday. The spokesman said that the meeting called by Regional Labour Commissioner was perhaps the result of that letter. Representatives of unions, Dubai Ports World, CPT, and Steamer Agent’s Association have been called for the meeting, he said.

Charles George, general convener of Trade Union Coordination Committee, however, said that he was unaware of such a meeting. Besides, he said, any such meeting can only be a farce as the Regional Labour Commissioner had already sent a failure report to the Central Labour Commissioner on twin issues relating to continued functioning of the Rajiv Gandhi Container Terminal and protection of jobs of those employed there.

He said that the CPT Chairman’s statement that ICTT would not lead to job loss and would in fact lead to proliferation of jobs was misleading and deserved contempt.

He claimed that the hartal was total. Cargo movement through the port was hit. Shops and offices in port premises remained closed and vehicles kept completely off the road, he said.

Earlier in the day, agitating workers took out a protest march from Thoppumpady to the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology Junction on the eastern entry of the CPT and staged a sit on the road. This was followed by a protest meeting.

The strike has hit the container movement hard as three vessels continue to remain stranded since Monday. While the vessel Seaways Valour remains stranded in the berth, vessels Maersk Ronneby and OEL Dubai plying in the Cochin-Colombo route remain stranded in the outer channel. Two other vessels carrying timber are also stranded in the outer channel.

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