In a telephone survey of key shipping industry executives on Monday, April 2, the same day the three-day stoppage was halted, there was harsh criticism of all involved, although those contacted all wished to remain anonymous.
“PPC management should have anticipated the problem, the Government should have a mechanism to avoid a port strike and force the antagonists to the negotiating table, and the militant workers should be intelligent enough to see the long term damage such a strike does to their country and their own future,” said one source.
“This is more than disappointing after we have spent the past 15 years building the confidence of international shipping lines in using Panama as a hub and a center of connectivity.”
The effect of the strike was not confined solely to PPC and its customers. It hit a range of support industries and even other ports. The tug service felt the effect from the lack of ship movements, with vessels – that cost thousands of dollars a day to operate – sitting at the anchorage waiting orders from owners or being diverted to other ports.
Even the Colon Free Zone felt the effect with traffic clerks trying desperately to find out if merchandise was trapped or had been diverted to other countries. The strike was highlighted as a “folly of putting all your eggs in one basket.”
“There couldn’t be a clearer example that building another container port at Corozal (at the Pacific side of the Canal close to PPC) makes very good sense,” said one shipping line executive.
Another shipping executive estimated it would take at least a month for movements to return to normal.
“Long Beach in California has never fully recovered from the Longshoreman’s strike they had several years ago and Panama and the Canal all-water-route became beneficiaries of that. Now we’re losing our credibility and there are plenty of other ports ready to take advantage of us.”
A logistics expert at a Panamanian port competing with PPC said: “This doesn’t help anyone. We get a few more ship movements but the backlog situation is a disaster.
The Bulletin attempted to give a right of reply to Panama Ports Company but was unable to reach any spokesperson
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