Port Sudan workers strike over terminal transfer deal

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Hundreds of workers in Port Sudan are continuing a days-long strike against the transfer of its vital container terminal to a Philippine company, a union leader said Thursday.

“For four days now we are on strike and we expect more colleagues to join us,” Osman Tahir, member of the port’s labor union, told AFP by telephone from the Red Sea city.

The strike at the vital economic hub comes amid weeks of anti-government demonstrations that began in December.

Protesters have rallied across the country, including in Port Sudan, accusing President Omar al-Bashir’s government of mismanaging the country’s economy.

Workers are opposing Khartoum’s decision to transfer control of the port’s container terminal to a Philippine company, International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI).

In July 2018, ICTSI informed the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission that it had won a bid to operate and manage the terminal under a 20-year concession.

Tender process

The company said on its website that the tender process had been led by Sudan’s state-run Sea Ports Corporation (SPC) and had attracted bids from several international operators.

SPC builds, maintains and governs the east African country’s ports, harbours and lighthouses.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Moutaz Mousa Abdallah said 10 international companies had bid to manage the terminal.

“Four of them were shortlisted including the Philippine company,” Mousa Abdallah said in a statement reported by the official news agency SUNA.

“The four companies were then asked to present their proposals after which the Sudanese authorities chose the Philippine company based on its technical and financial bid.”

He did not offer financial details on the deal.

Sudan’s economic woes have long caused popular frustration, but anger spilt onto the streets in December after the government tripled the price of bread.

A lengthy strike at Port Sudan’s vital maritime terminal would further damage the country’s already dilapidated economy.

Soaring inflation along with acute foreign currency shortages have severely impacted Sudan’s economy, especially after South Sudan won independence in 2011, taking with it the bulk of oil earnings.

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