CHENNAI: Export operation from the Chennai Port was hit after container truck drivers went on a flash strike even as port officials were struggling to break the deadlock.
A Chennai Port official told Express on Tuesday that the container drivers resorted to strike after the Chennai Port went by rule book following a raid by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) two weeks ago.
This affected the flow of container lorries into the port with drivers alleging that the normal procedure is several times more time consuming. “This has incensed the drivers who went on strike,” the port official said.
He said that operations at both Port of Singapore Authority Terminal as well as DP World Terminal were hit. Officials said that on an average the Chennai Port caters to 1,700 containers daily.
This month, the port had seen a rise of 10,000 additional 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo from containers compared to the corresponding period last year.
Drivers allege that the clearance of containers was going smoothly as each container was being charged an extra `60 by officials. However, the CBI raid has resulted in officials giving up the `60 and slowing down work. They add that the rate of containers being cleared per day has come down to 600 to 700 from an average of 1,700 earlier.
E Kalimuthu, general secretary of Chennai Harbour Tractor, Trailer, Drivers and Cleaners Union demanded the return to the earlier system benefit all concerned since the slowing down of clearance has resulted in drivers waiting three to four days for delivery of a single container. “We want the earlier system implemented by the Lorry Owners Association and the union to ensure orderly clearance of containers. We had been charging a mere `30 for this service,” Kalimuthu said.
“The CBI raid has resulted in this system being scrapped,” he added.
Meanwhile, Chennai Port officials tried to end the stand off through dialogue along with custom officials but it turned futile.