Dock workers’ protest: operations suspended at Port Qasim

Business Recorder Logo Operations at Port Qasim on Tuesday remained nearly suspended because the dock workers had closed the entrance of Karachi’s second largest harbour to disallow the cargo transportation in and out of the seaport in the fresh protest demonstration, sources said.

Rangers also used baton charge against the 1,800 protesting dock workers at the harbour’s gate, which left scores of agitators injured, the Port sources said, adding the mayhem also left over hundreds of Port-bounded loaded trucks unmoved.

The protestors also staged about two hours of sit-in at Quaidabad, which disrupted the traffic movements on the Landhi road which remained chaotic until sundown, they said.

Talking to Business Recorder, a Dockers’ representative, Gul Muhammad, said the workers had been forced to stage the protest against the non-payment of salaries for the last three months and suspension of medical facilities.

He said the agitation was unplanned initially but a rice-loaded ship which had to berth at Port Qasim was ‘illegally’ docked at Fauji Akbar Portia Marine Terminals Ltd, (FAP), which stirred up the Dockers to protest against the private grain cargo terminal.

“Port Qasim Authority is frightened to resist the illegal moves of the FAP – an army owned grain cargo terminal which “illegally” steered the rice-loaded ship towards its berths, initially bound for Port Qasim,” said a labour leader on the basis of anonymity.

He said the private terminal in line with the agreement with Port Qasim Authority could only deal in bulk cargo and in not containerised or bagged grains, which the FAP violated and was against the interest of Dockers.

He warned the protest is likely to continue the next day too for the revival of Dockers’ common pool in a bid to regenerate funds for their salaries and medical facilities.

When contacted the FAP representatives, who on the basis of anonymity denied the Dockers allegations and said “the FAP has an implementation agreement with Port Qasim Authority under which it could load and unload the bulk and bagged cargo but not the containerised one”.

He termed the dock workers’ protest illegal, unethical and unreligious to demand for their rights, saying the protestors should seek the court’s help instead of blocking harbour’s operations.

He said the FAP had no occupational links with the Dockers as it was totally running on automated system and could only employee those who could operate these machines.

“We [FAP] are not responsible for the non-payment of salaries to Dockers as we [FAP] are not their employer,” he pointed out.

He said only six trucks could reach the terminal during the day against the expected 150 vehicles due to the protest leading to the closure of harbour’s main gates.

“The pressurising tactics could not work against the FAP,” he said.

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