Flash strike by container lorry drivers at Chennai Port Trust enters second day
A flash strike by container lorry drivers at the Chennai Port Trust (ChPT) entered second day on Thursday, as Steamer Agents failed to explain why the numbers on the containers and documents were different. Export-Import activities came to a grinding halt at ChPT.
To diffuse the situation, ChPT officials conducted a meeting with all stakeholders on Thursday and they directed the Central Industrial Security Forces (CISF) to stop verification of the number plate, which is a unique to each container, until the issue was sorted out.
However, Steamer Agents and Lorry Owners' Association representatives failed to turn up for the meeting. Out of the seven seized containers, only one container-laden vehicle was released by the police after getting reply from a Steamer Agent.
K. Asaithambi, Secretary of Chennai Port Trust Trailer Lorry Driver Cleaner Anna Labours' Union, said they urged the police to issue release order for the vehicles as there was no link between the trucks and the confiscated containers. Moreover, the lorry drivers were being harassed unnecessarily for no fault of theirs.
The drivers, on their part, said they would withdraw the strike only when their vehicles were released without any condition. However, to secure their trucks, the drivers had to rely on the Shipping Lines to come forward and produce the relevant documents. Police and CISF personnel also confirmed that the containers and lorries would be released if the Shipping Lines explains in writing as to why there was a mismatch in the numbers.
It all began when CISF found on Tuesday and Wednesday that the numbers on seven imported containers were different from those mentioned in the documents. To be on the safer side, CISF personnel seized the container-laden vehicles for investigation, while the lorry drivers were let off.
According to the sources, about 400 vehicles are stranded inside the port premises and about 1,500 containers for over 25 km on the stretch leading to Maduravoyal, TPP Road and Madhavaram junctions from the zero gate.
Talking to The Hindu, ChPT Deputy Chairman P.C. Parida denied that there was a mismatch in the container numbers as made out to be by the CISF personnel. He also told the police that the lorries could be released while they would offload the containers into the custom bound area within the port premises.
“The Steamer Agents are in the process of bringing documents. However, the lorry owners are not willing to move their vehicles and their stand is puzzling,” he said.
When contacted a CISF official said that they found the numbers on three containers were tampered with and there were inconsistency in another four cases.
“There is no uniform law with regard to container numbers as each shipping line adopted different practices. Good that the Port has given us a directive in writing not to verify the number plate and we will not insist on it,” he said.