Workers at Colombo port returned to work on Wednesday (11 May) afternoon after enforcing strikes for 23 hours since Tuesday (10 May) evening.
The Sri Lankan police enforced a state of emergency as a violent clash erupted across the country which forced the island nation’s Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to resign on Monday (9 May).
The port workers had also joined the protests and at one stage on Tuesday evening they stopped working in all terminals of the regional transshipment port leaving everything standstill. The port’s navigation service also remained suspended during the strike even keeping idle the vessels that were scheduled to leave as they loaded outbound boxes.
During the 23-hour period, vessels that have completed operations were idling inside the port area without being able to sail out.
The consequences of delayed departure resulted in a huge financial loss for the shipping lines, loss of schedule integrity, delayed delivery of cargo and missing berthing opportunities in other ports, according to the Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents.
The association said in a statement that vessels, which were waiting for berthing outside the port, failed to berth and complete their cargo operations, while vessels on the berth failed to work productively resulting in delays, additional ports costs, inability to load cargo intended for vessels and incurred total disarray of the planned schedule of the voyage having far-reaching consequences to the ship owners.
Shehara De Silva, chairman of the association, in a letter to Dr. Prasantha Jayamanne, chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), said the strike has caused adverse effects on imports, exports and transshipment volumes. “This could lead to a loss of confidence as a transshipment hub and shifting of business out of Colombo to competitor ports,” he pointed out.
He added that shipping lines are being pushed into shifting services and shipping opportunities out of Colombo to other regional ports with predictability, reliability and steady and estimable costs of operations, and regaining such service calls to Colombo will take years to convince shipping lines.
“Such consequences will have a very far-reaching effect on the revenue to SLPA, CICT and SAGT and the country as a whole at this crucial juncture, where the country is clamouring for inflow of foreign currency,” Shehara De Silva noted.
Some 40% of Bangladesh’s export containers are being transshipped to Europe and America through Colombo port. Bangladeshi shippers fear a far-reaching impact on their export-import trade if the regional transshipment port faces further work stoppage due to the ongoing severe political and economic crises.
According to a company’s representative, MSC in Chittagong has some 8,500 TEU Bangladesh bound containers lying at the port, while thousands of boxes of other operators are also stuck there.
The shipping agents association on Tuesday had sought intervention of the SLPA chairman to convince the trade unions and labour to get back to work and resume operations.
Source : Container News