Discussions to end a nine-day-old strike by drivers and crew of more than a thousand container trailer lorries serving Kochi port and the International Container Transshipment Terminal here broke down on Monday, the second anniversary of the commissioning of the ICTT, built to launch Kochi as India’s preferred transshipment hub.
Through the two years, the transshipment hub has walked a trail of woes, its business falling marginally in the first year and, in the second, business growing about seven per cent when the lorry crew strike delivered a severe blow to its credibility as a reliable export-import facility.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who inaugurated the facility in February 2011, announced it as India’s maritime game changer and expressed the hope that it would beat its rivals in Colombo and Salalah, where the bulk of India’s trnasshipemnt business goes now.
According to industry sources, container throughput at the ICTT has stagnated at 3.3 lakh TEUs against a projected 7.5 lakh to 8 lakh TEUs.
The nine-day strike means that import-export containers, some of them with perishable items, are stranded at the terminal. According to sources, around 6,000 TEUs, mostly import containers have piled up.
Monday’s talks broke down after the owners of the trailer carriers refused to link payments to future hikes in diesel prices.
Workers are demanding that a percentage of the surcharge claimed by trailer owners against diesel price hikes should be paid to them.