A ceasefire has been brokered to end the three-day strike by truckers against depot operators which had paralysed Port Klang's the import and export industry, but discontent still simmers.

This follows a high-powered meeting by the Ministry of International Trade and Industries (Miti) with the Port Klang Authority (PKA), depot operators and other stakeholders yesterday afternoon.

According to a source privy to what had transpired at the meeting, a final solution was not worked out but Miti has given its assurance that it will hammer out a conclusion to the problem on condition that the strike is called off.

NONE"They said, no more strike, you guys have to go back to work and we will find a solution later.

"They are also asking the depots to work out an understanding with the haulier companies to get things moving first," the source said.

It is understood that several depots at Port Klang have agreed to revert their gate charge  back to RM5 in the interim.

The strike was called on Wednesday by the truckers frustrated at the long waiting time at depots coupled with the decision to raise gate charges from RM5 to between RM18 and RM20.

"If you want to push up your charges then you must justify your service, if your service is getting worse and worse then this is daylight robbery," he said.

The drivers who are paid based on commission per trip could previously do up to four trips a day, however, the congestion at the depots became progressively worse, especially in the last two months.

Congestion at depots

Conventionally when a shipping liner drops off containers at a port, they will be transferred to a depot to prevent congestion and hauliers will then pick up the containers from there for transport to the respective customers.

However, the source said the depots have become congested, aggravated by a slow down in the country's trade, leaving many empty containers at the depot .

Adding to the woe was the Malaysian International Shipping Corporation Bhd (MISC) withdrawal from the liner industry, resulting in more empty containers sitting at the depot awaiting auction.

NONEThis made it difficult to locate containers, lengthening the waiting time which saw the drivers' trip drop to between one to two trips a day, said the source with 20 years experience as a forwarder.

The PKA and the Transport Ministry, washing their hands off the problem in the early stages of the strike by claiming it has no jurisdiction over the depots, said the source, had allowed the strike to persist for three days, creating a pileup of 16,000 to 20,000 containers.

This, he said, has given birth to a myriad of new problems, as the overdue storage meant incurring extra charges which could amount up to RM1,000 per container per day.

"Who is going to pay for the charges? I can forward this to my customers but what if they refuse to pay?"

Meanwhile, another source in the Association of Malaysian Hauliers (AMH) said Miti and PKA must negotiate a waiver of this extra container charges to put the matter to rest.

He said while the association's official stance was that the drivers were protesting on their own, many companies under the association are supporting the strike on the quiet.

"We do not support officially but we said go and boycott, because only after the drivers started to fight only  then did we get the government's attention," he said, adding the problems had persisted for years and continued to worsen.

While drivers are required to pay the increased gate charges upfront, ultimately the haulier firms have to foot the bill.

The strike appears not to have an organised structure as, according to the source, it was spontaneously conceived by the drivers through text messages with the subtle backing of some haulier companies.

The source with 15 years experience operating a haulier company said that the association had previously signed an MoU with the Malaysian Container Depot Association (MCDA) which promised a waiting time of no more than 40 minutes but the present situation saw drivers waiting for up to five hours.

"They also said they would operate up to 4am, but they close shop at 12am while the hauliers operate 24 hours a day," he said.

Back to work, discontent lingers

While still unhappy at the present situation, the source said drivers will return to work today to help clear the backlog while others will only do so after the weekend break.

"But we will only engage depots that have compromised or agreed to reduce their fee charges," he said.

NONEDespite the baby steps to normalcy, the drivers are still upset over the arrest of 25 of their strikers who were accused of vandalising trucks that refused to join the strike.

The source said for a real solution to the problem, the government must get to its root by involving the shipping liners in their meetings.

"It is the shipping liner that chooses which depot to use, but the liners want the cheapest depot without caring that the hauliers have to wait for hours, for them, it is not their problem," he said. - Malaysiakini, 5/5/2012, Truckers strike: Ceasefire brokered after three days