Barge owners' strike paralyses working of anchorage port

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Kakinada, Mar 13 (UNI) Work at the old anchorage port here came to a grinding halt today following the 'bandh' called by steel barge owners in protest against the diversion of raw sugar to the deep water port, contrary to the assurances given by the government.

The owners closed the 'harbour crafts pool' office that allotted barges to various shippers and refused to hold discussions with the officials.

The agitators said ''this token protest is only a beginning. We will think of further action in case the government continues to remain silent on the vital issue concerning the future of the anchorage port and thousands of families depending on it,'' Steel Barge Owners Association president B Ramamurthy said.

''We will prefer an appeal in the High Court on its earlier single judge order, advising them to approach the government for clear cut demarcation of cargo to be handled by both the ports,'' he said.

The shippers sought the Port Officer's intervention to resolve the tangle. ''We have sought the port officer to invoke the 'port harbour crafts rules' and take over the control of the barges so that the working of the port is not affected. The loss on account of the flash strike comes to around Rs one crore per day,'' Cocanada Chamber of Commerce Chairman Dantu Suryarao told UNI.

The one-day barge bandh would affect the port's functioning for two days as the barge allotment and commencement of work would take another day. Moreover, lorries would not be available for the shipping trade tomorrow due to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's visit to Jaggampet, he added.

Terming the barge owners' action as ''illegal,'' Port Officer In-charge and Deputy Commissioner of Labour Panduranga Raju said he was trying to hold urgent meeting with the barge owners in the presence of chamber representatives to sort out the issue.

''The strike is suicidal as it sends wrong signal worldwide about the port's credibility and the shippers may think of diverting the trade to other ports,'' said Mr Raghu, representative of the Steamer Agents Association.

UNI XR VA RL HT1810

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