Indian port and dock workers to go on indefinite strike from March 10 over pay even as they reject an 18.5 percent pay hike. The five federations of port and dock workers together account for more than 65,000 employees at more than ten major ports. The Water Transport Workers Federation of India, All India Port and Dock Workers Federation, Port, Dock and Waterfront Workers Federation of India and Indian National Port and Dock Workers Federation have served notice to managements to this effect after a meeting in New Delhi. Their demands? A 35 percent pay hike and a reduction in periodicity, which they say is standard in other Central Government undertakings. Critics say that the ports are Trusts and not really public sector undertakings as defined. Meanwhile, the ongoing strike of workers of Cochin’s CTT (Cochin Thuramugha Thozilali Union) has already hit operations at the port, with two bulk carriers stuck at outer anchorage at Cochin. Operators fear that the threatened strike will cripple movement at ports and hit the industry hard in difficult times. One immediate fallout may be that Cochin will lose business to other ports like Tuticorin and Mangalore if the situation in the port persists.
Chinese and Russian spat after Chinese ship sinks off Vladivostok with seven crew missing. China has lodged a formal protest with Russia saying that a Russian warship fired on a Chinese cargo vessel, the New Star. Three crewmembers were rescued, but seven are still missing. The Russian media quotes the Russian foreign ministry denying this, saying that the Chinese ship violated border laws, refused to stop when warning shots were fired, and sank in a storm. Interfax said the New Star, carrying a crew from China and Indonesia, left the port of Nakhoda without notifying authorities, and was fleeing border guards when the incident occurred. “We regret the tragic consequences of these events. However, we lay the whole responsibility for what happened on the New Star Captain, who acted extremely irresponsibly," Russian agency Interfax quoted a ministry representative as saying. The war of words between the two countries continued last week, with China claiming that the Russians did not try hard to find survivors, and that a Russian warship fired on the Sierra Leone flagged ‘New Star’. A Chinese official said that the “attitude of the Russian foreign ministry is hard to understand and unacceptable. Some reports suggest that the New Star had been held on suspicion of smuggling in Nakhoda, left port without notifying authorities and was forced to turn back after a Russian naval vessel fired 500 rounds at it. The New Star subsequently sank, with the crew abandoning the vessel.
Vessels to be registered under a uniform coastal security system. It was decided at a meeting on coastal security chaired by Cabinet Secretary Chandrashekar on Saturday that all vessels would be uniformly registered while keeping security on the highest priority. The meeting of top bureaucrats included the Secretaries of Home, Defence, Shipping, Border Management and Fishing, besides Deputy National Advisors and senior Naval and Coast Guard personnel. The new coastal security system would go further, with the issuance of Multipurpose National ID cards (MNIC) to fishermen and ID cards to coastal populations, besides new communication and navigational equipment on fishing vessels. Attendees are apparently pursuing questions on how best to have the ID cards interoperable, although there is broad agreement on the streamlined installation of tracking and other navigational devices on water craft. These initiatives have taken priority post the Mumbai terror attacks, with the Nautical Advisor reportedly working closely with ISRO, the National Informatics Centre and technical personnel to expedite the process. The modalities of issuance of ID cards to coastal and fishing populations are still being worked out.
Now, an army of fire fighting robots to fight pirates! Engineers at the Centre of Firefighting Robotechnics in Petrozavodsk, Russia, have come up with a novel idea: a robot to fight pirates. Modified by an existing prototype of a robot designed to fight fires, the designers at this small Northern Russian city say that it can ‘wash away pirates along with their weapons and even sink their boats.’ Each robot was originally meant to extinguish fires on ships and in ports; Russian engineers came up with a plan to have a dozen such such robots protecting ships against pirates. The system uses motion sensors and monitors areas on board which are the pirates’ favourites for boarding. Once confirmed by cameras controlled from the navigating bridge, the ‘army’ of robots’ fires high pressure water cannon at the pirate boat. The system can be used in automatic or manual mode; in the latter, the robots are controlled from the bridge. The water cannon are apparently powerful enough to sink pirate motorboats or wash would be attackers overboard. Seafarers may have to wait a bit for these friendly robots, though: they are still being tested under seagoing conditions.