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Strikes against privatisation in Port Sudan

December 10 - 2020 PORT SUDAN
Announcement of formation of a workers committee against the privatisation of the cargo terminal in 2019 (social media)
Announcement of formation of a workers committee against the privatisation of the cargo terminal in 2019 (social media)

Yesterday early morning, workers at the Southern Port in Port Sudan, the capital of the Red Sea State, went on strike and closed the port's gate with containers in a protest against the appointment of a new executive director for the southern port by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure.

The Minister of Transport and Infrastructure issued a decision earlier this week to appoint Bahri Mahmoud as executive director of the Southern Port for the period of one year, granting him all administrative, executive, and operational powers.

The workers considered this step as discriminatory and as a prelude to privatisation of the port.

After meeting with the Board of Directors and the management of the Sea Ports Authority later yesterday, Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Hashim Ibn Auf announced the withdrawal of the appointment of the new executive director.

Abboud El Sherbini, Chairman of the Sea Ports Workers Steering Committee, said that the staff of the Sea Ports Authority is able to manage the international ports on its own account. He further explained that the port primarily needs maintenance support and the delivery of spare parts and that it does not face any administrative or engineering problems.

In October the Northern Port suffered the breakdown of half of the bridge cranes and loading and unloading processes consequently reached new lows.

El Sherbini called on the director-general of the Sea Ports Authority to resign and stated that the workers steering committee will reject any decision that comes from Khartoum without any previous investigation or study.

Taher Galbawi, head of the Port Workers Association, described the decision to appoint an executive director subjective and unjustified as he explained that the port is managed by expert engineers, of whom many have been working at the port for over 40 years.

He accused the Ministry of Transport of seeking to monopolise $61 million support funding that was approved by the Finance Ministry.

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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