By John Quigley
Peru has declared a state of emergency at the port of Callao as a strike by stevedores enters its eighth day, Transport Minister Enrique Cornejo said on Lima-based Radioprogramas.
The strike has prompted 30 ships to be diverted from the country’s largest port, while 19 are waiting to dock, Cornejo said, pictured here. The military will help protect port workers from possible attacks as the protest continues, he said.
The job action begun May 12 by roughly 1,000 stevedores seeking to push congress to boost wages and improve working conditions has slowed work at the port that handles a third of Peru’s $27 billion in exports. The navy has helped unload 17 ships and 11 are docked for unloading, Cornejo said.
“The port is working but at a slower pace,” Cornejo said. “The stevedores are opposed to the port’s modernization because the use of cranes and computers means fewer stevedores will be required.”
Callao’s Muelle Norte pier requires at least $700 million of investment to modernize its facilities and may need as much as $3 billion in the long term, Cornejo said. The government plans to start the bidding process to find a private operator for the pier “in the coming weeks,” he said.
The strike may have already cost Peru $200 million worth of foreign trade, the Lima Chamber of Commerce said in e-mailed statement yesterday.
“Industry is clearly being affected when there are no exports,” Hans Flury, president of the National Society of Mining, Petroleum & Energy, told reporters in Lima today. “The country is discredited for not meeting its commitments on time.”
The sol weakened 0.2 percent to 2.8465 at 11:58 a.m. New York time from 2.8415 yesterday.