Army Enters Ctg Port
Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Military forces have entered the port area to bring the chaotic situation under control.

The police earlier foiled a procession of agitating workers at the Chittagong port brought out shortly after a ban was imposed on processions and rallies.

The police shot rubber-bullets and charged batons on the workers' procession around 5:15pm to disperse them.

Abul Kashem, commissioner of the Chittagong Metropolitan Police, on Wednesday said the ban was forced under the metropolitan ordinance to ensure smooth trading at the port.

Earlier in the day, Shipping minister Shajahan Khan at a meeting with the dock workers said troops will be deployed at the port amid an impasse between private berth operators and dock workers.

But he did not say when the deployment will take place but officials with the knowledge of the matter said it could happen as early as in the late afternoon.

Minister Khan had been meeting with the stakeholders of the country's premier port up until 4am before taking a break.

Efforts by the minister had failed to resolve the deadlock at 12 jetties of the port despite his series of meetings on Tuesday night that went well past midnight.

Operations had not resumed until 1:30pm on Wednesday at the jetties as port workers prevented private berth operators from starting work.

The berth operators resumed work at 6pm on Tuesday following a meeting with the port authorities at noon. But they were apparently chased away by the ruling Awami League-backed port workers.

Earlier at Tuesday noon, port chairman RU Ahmed, after a meeting with the berth operators, told reporters that the operators agreed to start work from 2pm.

On Monday, pro-government port workers injured two workers of a private berth operating firm as a part of their ongoing protest against the private firms' takeover of the berth handling.

Berth Operator Owners Association convenor Shahadat Hossain Selim told after the meeting: "The port authorities responded positively... If they cooperate, we will start working from today."

There has been a long-standing row between berth operators and pro-government workers over a number of issues, including recruitment of workers in the newly hired six berth operating firms, and issuance of identity cards for the workers.

Selim added that the workers have become divided into factions and they are not paying heed to their leaders.

He said this following the assault of pro-government Dock Port Workers and Employees Federation general secretary Mahfuzur Rahman and joint general secretary Abul Ahad.

Workers claimed the two leaders were shielding the berth operators.

The port has 16 jetties among which 10 are container jetties and six are of general category. The dispute put a halt on all six general jetties and six container jetties.

On Oct 7, six private firms were hired for berth operation through a tender. The firms were supposed to start work from Oct 8 but could not due to worker protests.


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