The chain has broken… again
By Pilar Montes
HAVANA TIMES — Havana’s port-transport-domestic economy chain has been interrupted once again and, at the end of the day, it’s the majority of the Cuban population who suffer the consequences.
Cuba relies heavily upon international trade, importing many of the basic products we buy. If port activity doesn’t hum along as it should or suffers delays, between transportation to transfer these goods to markets and then to the final customer, the State ends up paying $7,000 dollars per day in demurrage charges for vessels which aren’t discharged within the time limit established by the contracts.
This time, the Gordian knot involves 20,000 tons of rice, many of which are now useless as they’ve already been attacked by pests, plus the thousands of bags of fertilizer which our national agricultural sector is so in desperately need of.
The pests are having a whale of a time whilst the real insects are frantically looking for excuses where they don’t exist. The stevedores eagerly want to get to work, however the transport they need to unload these vessels doesn’t arrive.
At least now we’ve been informed about this disaster on a TV news report, which was in turn alerted about this situation by an article published in the Trabajadores newspaper. For a long time now, we Cubans only knew, if anything, the excuses why rice hadn’t yet been delivered to stores.
On our TV screens, the journalist took a risk and interviewed both sides of the fence. Standing on one side, the haulage company says that their teams weren’t contracted for the job and that train storage containers weren’t suitable for the job because they leak.
Warehouse managers contend that they had solicited transportation services, but they weren’t forthcoming. However, all of the administrative personnel involved in this dilemma continue to get paid for their work, a little, not nearly enough, but they still continue to receive their paychecks.
Nevertheless, the stevedores count on their day’s worth of work to be able to feed their families. What should be done? Well, if the Cuban state spends $7,000 dollars a day to pay for demurrage charges, half of this amount would be enough to pay all of the workers involved. They wouldn’t only be able to discharge the ships immediately, but they’d be able to find their own modes of transport to take these goods to their final destination.
What sanctions are made against those who work inefficiently? Maybe just a demotion to a more inferior role or an administrative sanction, but they could just as well be sent to the courts on corruption charges.
According to those responsible
With warehouses jam-packed with goods, mainly food products, the Andres Gonzalez Lines and Haiphong terminals in Havana’s port, face a critical situation as the current level of transport operating isn’t enough for what they have right now, much less for what’s also bout to come in.
“Today we have three ships, one with rice, one with beans and another with corn and over the next three days, two more will come in with soy beans and rice,” says Leandro Martinez, director of a Western Port Services Company.
Martinez should be made aware that crises should be tackled with resolutions of the same dimension, be taken to the corresponding Ministry, to the district attorney’s office, as the issue is directly related to feeding the population and the government’s budget.
With regard to transport services, by not having been contracted to supply the vehicles necessary, they should also have experience in how things work, that is to say, they should know what goods are entering the port and why they haven’t been asked to transport them.
Regarding the stevedores, their manager is being bombarded by their own questions. He points out to the Trabajadores journalist, “we have 26 units, but right now we only have one for the day. This clearly has a negative impact as 90% of the stevedores here can’t work. They don’t want the State to lose money and, of course, they need their paychecks,” he emphasized.
He also commented that workers were demanding an explanation from the company’s management, from the labor union and from the Party. “But we still haven’t received a response. Ships keep coming in and the same thing keeps happening: there are no trucks.”
If we were living in times of war, or if a Category 5 hurricane had struck or an earthquake, then maybe those responsible would excuse themselves using human or natural disasters as a legitimate excuse, but that’s not the case here.