Container freight stations at JNPT come under attack by retrenched workers

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on September 25, 2018

Dip in business due to introduction of direct port delivery led to their lay-off

Container freight stations (CFS) servicing Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) faced mob attacks in two separate incidents recently after they laid off staff due to a dip in business with the introduction of direct port delivery in early 2017.

Buses carrying CFS employees of APM Terminals Inland Services were the target of attack by ‘some retrenched contract workers’ on August 3 and September 10.

APM Terminals, which runs two CFSs near India’s busiest container gateway, is a unit of Danish shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk Group A/S that also runs Maersk Line, the world’s biggest container shipping company.

“Due to evolving business environment, APM Terminals Inland Services had taken a difficult yet unavoidable decision to reduce contractual workforce employed by Orient Freight Services at one of APM Terminals' Container Freight Stations (Main CFS) in Nhava Sheva. This decision was taken to ensure the sustainability of operations at the facility. The retrenchment was carried out as per the law and all contractual obligations were fulfilled. The retrenched contract workforce was demanding reinstatement which was not a possible option for APM Terminals Inland Services, and the same was clearly communicated to them,” a spokesperson for APM Terminals Inland Services told BusinessLine.

EXIM logistics chain in jeopardy

Officials at other CFSs operating near JNPT fear that they may also be subjected to such attacks with many of them downsizing staff or even contemplating closing their facilities to deal with the pick up in direct port delivery volumes (DPD), hurting their operations.

The issue was raised by the CFS Association at the Permanent Trade Facilitation Committee (PTFC) meeting called by the JN Custom House on Monday.

“If such incidents recur, it would have serious impact and jeopardise the entire EXIM logistics chain as CFSs are responsible for connecting EXIM boxes,” said UC Grover, Secretary-General of the CFS association.

Under DPD, import containers are delivered directly to pre-approved clients at the port itself instead of waiting in a CFS located outside for clearance, which reduces cargo dwell time and cost for shippers.

To tap alternative revenue sources

“As more importers opt for DPD, the revenue of CFSs, comprising handling, storage and inspection charges, would dip further this fiscal. To offset this, CFS operators are expected to focus on alternative revenue sources from allied logistics and transportation services,” says Prasad Koparkar, Senior Director, CRISIL Research.

APM Terminals Inland Services had filed a first information report (FIR) with Uran Police station after the first attack on August 3 and staff buses were plying with police protection since then.

Despite police protection, three buses carrying over 60 CFS employees were attacked again on September 10 by some retrenched contract workers in Nhava Sheva. Stones were pelted on the bus while the employees and the police personnel were inside it. The police personnel and two of our employees sustained injuries, the firm said.

Police filed an FIR at Uran Police Station, since police on duty were injured.

“If the safety of our employees shall be endangered again, APM Terminals will not hesitate to take all appropriate measures to ensure the safety of its employees, including suspension of operations in a region where in we currently employ over 900 people,” the company said.

Published on September 25, 2018

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