Monday, January 14, 2013

PNG Ports responds to Lae stevedores’ strike action


The operational changes implemented by PNG Ports Corporation Limited (PNGPCL) at the Lae port are not intended to take away jobs from stevedores but are aimed at improving transport communications and boosting productivity, according to chief executive officer Stanley Alphonse.
 The changes include the discontinuation of the use of stevedoring companies to clear overseas import and export cargo at Lae Port.
 The PNG Maritime and Transport Workers Union, representing over 1,000 workers at the Lae wharf, has threatened strike action after PNGCPL failed to respond to its demands by January 4.
 Lae is PNG’s largest cargo port and located at the start of the main road transport corridor from the Highlands region to the coast.
 Strike action at the wharf would affect the entire country, especially large inland mining operations.
Rubber-tyred gantry (RTG) cranes at Lae port, which stevedores claim has made many of them redundant.

The workers, who are employed by three major stevedoring companies—Riback, United Stevedores and Lae Port Services—are opposing PNG Ports Corporation plans to remove the import/export clearance or IDD docket from the stevedores’ main gates and cut jobs.
Alphonse said such changes had to be done “to improve transport communications between port stakeholders including stevedores, PNGPCL and transport companies with the intention of reducing truck dwell times within the port boundaries”.
He said the new procedure implemented by PNGPCL at its Lae Port was part of Lae port’s redevelopment plans and is in no way intended to replace the stevedores’ use of IDD dockets as part of the stevedores’ procedure in exercising this duty of care.
He made this comments in response to articles published in The National last week regarding threats by stevedores in Lae to go on strike over the changes made by PNGPCL.
“PNGPCL understands that licensed stevedores at the Lae port have a contractual obligation with ship owners and a duty of care for the cargoes they stevedore within the port,” Alphonse said in a statement at the weekend.
“However, the new procedure set out by PNGPCL will only apply to overseas cargoes and stevedores will continue to use the current system for coastal cargoes.”
Alphonse said PNG Ports had made an investment of more than K200 million in developing infrastructure at the Port Moresby and Lae ports, two of the most-important marine gateways in Papua New Guinea in recent years to boost efficiency and drive the economy forward.
“The developments we have implemented are in line with changes in port management and operations taking place in ports around the world,” he said.
“We have to change the way we do business in Papua New Guinea if we have to keep pace with the changing times.
“We are not taking jobs away from the stevedores.
“I want to make it clear that my office did not receive any communication from the union on this matter, however, in the spirit of cooperation, we will send a team to Lae on Monday (today) to meet the management of stevedores that are involved.”

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