Saturday, February 5, 2011

Port Strike Turns Ugly As Freight Trucks Attacked

History Repeats Itself After Only Eight Months
Shipping News Feature

PERU – Less than a year after a state of emergency was declared after eight days of strikes by the stevedores employed at the Port of Callao, we are receiving reports of more problems affecting freight and shipping interests as dockers once again strike amid fears that the government is about to privatise the entire ports industry throughout the country.

Overseas shipping and port services specialists have been queuing up for years to invest in the build up of container terminal facilities in Callao, since 2000 the port was the fastest growing in terms of TEU and tonnage in South America increasing traffic levels by 14% per annum for the first few years of the new century. Companies like Dubai’s DP World, whose facilities opened in 2010, Philippine group International Container Terminal Services (ICTS) and Maersk subsidiary APM Terminals have all thrown money at developments in the region.

In May 2010 during the eleven days of the last strike by about 1,000 stevedores, thirty or more container vessels had to divert to alternative South American ports and many more were delayed with troops being utilised to assist in the unloading of import cargoes whilst export operations, worth around $9 billion per annum via Callao alone to Peru, were virtually suspended.

Now new talks are underway as another strike which started on the 19th January, begins to take a nasty turn with reports of violent outbreaks as pickets attempt to stop trucks delivering freight to the port. Attempts to move a convoy of commercial vehicles into the port apparently led to incidents of violence, including shots fired and physical assaults on personnel and trucks and even death threats. The strikers are demanding a review of labour benefits and pension rights.

Callao is the port for Lima where the Chamber of Commerce have recently estimated that the country must invest $2 billion in infrastructure projects to ensure they maintain the status of the region in terms of cargo handling ability in the face of stiff competition from South American neighbours.