China's Shanghai exports delayed by truck drivers' protests

25 April 2011 07:13  [Source: ICIS news]

Shanghai exports disrupted by strikesSINGAPORE (ICIS)--Angry protests by container-truck drivers in Shanghai have disrupted operations at the world's busiest container port and may lead to a delay in exports, industry sources said on Monday.

Since 20 April, hundreds of truck drivers have been striking at major ports in Shanghai, seeking higher freight rates to offset their costs after China raised fuel prices for a second time this year, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported.

"Our haulage fees haven't changed in over a decade, but the costs have gone up dramatically," said one protester from Henan province.

"The price of fuel has gone up so much that we can hardly afford to feed our families,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

At least two protesters have been arrested and two foreign journalists detained by police after a crowd of several hundred people gathered to protest outside a logistics centre in the northern Baoshan district, the newspaper quoted witnesses as saying.

Containers were unable to enter ports and depot areas as striking drivers had set up blockades at port entrances, sources said.

“I have several containers carrying melamine still waiting outside the port. It is still unknown when the containers can be loaded because of the strike. Now the containers cannot be transported into the port area,” a melamine trader told ICIS.

“Meanwhile, melamine exports are also affected,” the trader added.

A shipping source at Ningbo in Zhejiang said, “Two of my containers are still left in Yangzhou, and I could not get them transported to Shanghai. Even if they were transported to Shanghai, they still cannot be loaded. I can understand drivers’ strikes as the rising fuel prices and other charges squeezed their earnings.”

A similar strike was staged last week by local Ningbo truck drivers to protest rising prices, the source said.

“If the situation continues, not only the exports, the imports will also be affected as domestic companies cannot get their imported cargoes,” the shipping agent said.

Reports on the incident were quickly removed from news websites and online forums and state media was informed not to report on the protests. Beijing is concerned that public unrest could result from anger over rising prices, particularly after inflationary woes helped to spark popular uprisings in the Middle East.

Shanghai is actively taking measures to respond to the strike, Xinhua reported early on Saturday in English, citing an unidentified Shanghai government spokesman.

Shanghai's municipal government is offering fee cuts to defuse the anger of striking truck drivers, an official spokesman said days after the protests began.

Meanwhile, all ports in Shanghai were operating normally, the spokesman added.

The Shanghai Municipal Transport and Port Authority said over the weekend that it would cancel certain fees, such as fuel surcharges, while lowering other fees for the container transport sector.

The new measures were aimed at "easing rising inflation and cost pressures on transport companies", the port authority said in a statement on its website, without mentioning the ongoing strikes.

China’s inflation hit a 32-month high of 5.4% in March and Beijing has said it would spare no effort to maintain stable domestic prices to ease inflationary pressures.

Nicole Zhang contributed to this article

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