The Sri Lankan Minister of Ports and Shipping, Arjuna Ranatunga has said that recent protests have left the Port of Hambantota in a significant state of damage. The act of dissent lasted for a total of 6 days and tensions got so high that on Sunday December 11, naval troops were forced to intervene and fire warning shots in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
The strikers were initially causing disruption by preventing the Japanese vehicle carrier Hyperion Highway from leaving the port.
Speaking to the BBC, Sandeshaya claimed that the damage is still yet to be estimated. The striking workers of port sabotaged equipment and operations, flooded the main administration building and left deactivated crane machines in ships so they cannot leave. It is believed that the protests cost the shipping line USD $100,000 a day in lost business alone. Arjuna Ranatunga went on to say “We do not know how much it will cost to fix this. These people have behaved very badly and done major damage to the Port”.
The Minister was also quick to condemn the danger that the protests posed. Oil tanks and international ships were present at the port and he claims if the navy hadn’t intervened, the problems could have worsened immeasurably.
The temporary workers began striking last Tuesday (December 6 2016) in a bid to secure permanent employment status. The workers are worried that the Sri-Lankan Ports Authority are looking to hand over an 80% stake in the port to Chinese firm, China Merchants Ports Holding Company, and fear for the security of their jobs.
Fortunately, no casualties have been reported in the wake of the pandemonium at the port.
Just last week, PTI reported how a Greek port was also forced to a standstill by striking workers.