Trailer owners’ strike hits exim trade in Chennai

Agitation set to continue for the third day as talks with CFSs fail to make progress

Import-export operations in the city came to a standstill for the second day on Tuesday with over 6,000 trailers and 2,000 open trucks that carry containers to Chennai, Kamarajar and Kattupalli ports on strike demanding revision of hire charges.

Since talks between trailer owners associations and container freight stations (CFS), remained inconclusive, the strike is set to continue for the third day causing worries to port users. Around 1,500 import containers and 1,000 export containers pass through the three ports daily and these are moved by the trailers to and from the 32 CFSs in and around the city.

S. Nataraja, President, Customs Brokers Association, Chennai, said that the exim trade in the city had been paralysed due to the strike. “Though the demand for increase in charges is a fair one, we are worried about the demurrage charges that we would have to bear due to containers remaining inside the port. Also, since ships are being offloaded, containers would be stacked as they come in. It would take time to retrieve the older containers,” he said, while urging the State government, various port trusts and customs to intervene in the matter.

Individual CFSs to take a call on rate revision

M.S. Arun, chairman, National Association of Container Freight Stations (Chennai chapter), said that rate revisions were to be decided by individual CFSs since the trailer owners had contracts with each of them. “Rates differ from one CFS to another. If there is a problem with any CFS, then our Association can step in. For now, we remain helpless,” he said.

Trailer Owners’ Association (TOA) secretary S.R. Raja said that they were running at a loss since they were not able to carry more than one 20-foot-long container at a time as they were being fined for driving overweight trailers. “Only 20% of the 1 lakh containers used in the three ports are 40-foot-long. So, most of the time, trailers carry 20-footers for which we are paid lesser when compared to the bigger ones. Unless the rates are revised, over 50,000 persons depending on the trailer industry in north Chennai including owners, drivers, clerks, tinkers and mechanics would be affected,” he explained.

Mr. Raja said they were demanding an increase in hire charges and had provided enough notice to the ports and port users. “We cannot run at a loss for a long time,” he added.

Meanwhile, CFS representatives are planning to meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

“Ship handling not affected”

Responding to the issue, official sources in Chennai and Kamarajar ports said that though container truck movement had been affected, other cargo movements were continuing. T

he internal operations of the ports were going on and ship handling had not been affected.

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