The efforts of increasing productivity at the wharfs by Chennai Port management seems to pay dividend, as good number of bulk vessels had opted for half shift gang system.
Speaking to Sagar Sandesh, a senior Traffic Department official in Chennai Port Trust, said: “Since April 4, when the system was rolled out on a trial basis for three months in our port, more than 10 bulk vessels had utilized the system, which was primarily aimed at reducing charges for stevedores and increasing productivity.”
Explaining why the system had been in place, the port official stated: “During discussions with stakeholders and trade unions for improving productivity, it came to our knowledge that the idle hours of break bulk and project cargo vessels were on the increase in the port. While conducting a study to ascertain the reasons for it, it emerged that non-working of the vessels berthed in between the shifts were found to be the real reason for that idleness. In such situations, stevedores are reluctant to engage gang for a few hours working by making full shift gang charges.”
“So, our management decided to introduce half shift gang system to encourage the stevedores to engage services, which could help the port increase productivity,” he added.
According to a notice issued to the trade, with regards to charges 50 % of existing wages and 192 % levy on wages (50 %) will be collected for supply of full gang for half shift, and also the datum will be proportionately reduced to 50% of the existing datum and accordingly, the piece-rate amount will be payable to the workers.
During a meeting with stevedores prior to the launch of the system, it was agreed by all stakeholders that the vessels which are berthing during first half of the shift, should compulsorily engage gang, however it was made optional to the vessels which are berthing during second half of the shift.
Stevedores, who engaged the half-shift gang, told Sagar Sandesh that it helped them financially. Earlier, they were forced to engage full gang (eight hours) despite having work for just two or four hours to evacuate their bulk cargo.
Though the port unions objected to the move terming it as pro-trade and anti-labour, most of them now understood that the port has actually planned to increase productivity and bring in more revenue, another senior port official pointed out.