With container lorry operators continuing their boycott of Container Road over the imposition of toll by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), the Cochin Port Trust (CPT) has decided to transport containers in bulk through trains and ships plying along the coast from Sunday.
Concor (a subsidiary of the Indian Railway) and ships will be deployed from Sunday to ferry the thousands of containers that have piled up due to the strike. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting convened here on Thursday by CPT’s Acting Chairman A.V. Ramana. Customs officials and those representing the logistics sector participated in the meeting. They assured all support to ensure speedy clearance of the stranded containers, most of them laden with goods meant for export, said port sources.
Most containers with perishables have been transported to other ports in Tamil Nadu for being shipped abroad. The agitation by container lorry operators has come at a time when the port is registering higher cargo handling than during previous years. The contention that they would have to bear the toll expenses was untrue since it would be the exporter or importer who would shell out the amount, they added.
Port officials blamed container lorry operators for agitating over “non-issues” even earlier, citing how they had continued to park trailers on both sides of Container Road, despite directives from the traffic police and the NHAI following accidents caused by haphazard parking. A total of 870 container lorries could be parked in around 20 acres of dedicated parking space in Willingdon Island, Bolgatty, Vallarpadam and Vypeen. Many of them, run by private firms, are on the verge of closure.
On lorry operators seeking resumption of the roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferry service, they said the service was withdrawn due to low patronage.
A meeting convened here on Thursday by District Collector K. Mohammed Y. Safirulla to end the deadlock over the toll issue was inconclusive. “The striking lorry operators sought major concessions on toll rates. We are not in a position to yield to this since construction of the road entailed reclamation of land and construction of over half a dozen major bridges,” said an NHAI official.