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Appointment fuels fear for privatisation in Port Sudan

December 14 - 2020 PORT SUDAN
Port Sudan harbour (Port Sudan Harbour)
Port Sudan harbour (Port Sudan Harbour)

The employees of the Sea Ports Authority in Port Sudan organized a protest in front of the gate of the southern port yesterday, protesting against the appointment of former director Bahri Mahmoud as an “expert”.

Last week, employees staged strikes against Bahri Mahmoud appointment as director of the southern port. They saw the appointment as a prelude to privatisation. These strikes led to the cancellation of the appointment.

The protesters carried banners saying “The port does not need an expert”, and “No to privatisation, not for sale”.

The worker’s trade union at the Sea Ports Authority issued a statement as well, in which they emphasised that the port does not need experts, but modernisation, reparations of cranes, better maintenance, and construction of sidewalks.

They called for the formation of a committee to implement an emergency plan in cooperation with the Sea Ports Authority.

They also demanded the termination of the maintenance contract between the Sea Ports Authority and the cranes manufacturer, and legislation that allows the administration to purchase equipment.

Anti-privatisation protests

The workers in Port Sudan have a long history of resisting privatisation in the port, fearing that it will steer money and power away from workers. They have formed the Committee against Privatisation that aims to safeguard the interests of the country, port workers, and workers of the Southern Port in particular.

Last month, the Port Workers Union held a strike in protest against the privatisation of the Red Sea state ports and demanded that the Port Authority be represented in the Legislative Council to be established in the coming months.

In October, port workers closed all gates of the Southern Port in Port Sudan in solidarity with the protests against the eastern Sudan Track agreement and against “the agenda of external parties aiming to privatise the ports in Port Sudan”.

In 2019, they held strikes protesting the signing of a contract with Philippine company International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) and blocked a visiting committee from entering the port.

In 2017, workers also reiterated their categorical rejection of the former Sudanese government’s programme of privatisation for the Southern Port in Port Sudan.

At the time, leading union member Abdallah Musa said that “the government, which has sold the country's resources and manipulated them, is now moving towards selling or renting ports to foreign companies in secret deals whose details, terms and the form in which it was agreed upon is not known”.

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