Truckers yesterday renewed warnings of slow-drive protests, one day after a deal was reached on a controversial cargo-handling surcharge.
The mid-stream operators, who load and unload goods on vessels, yesterday refused to promise not to press drivers for the $40 surcharge.
At a meeting of the Legco economic services panel, they also refused to explain why truck drivers should pay the surcharge, supposedly imposed on shippers or owners of goods.
The chairman of the Hong Kong Mid-Stream Operators' Association, Wong Miu-sang, said an electronic payment system was being considered to replace the provisional pre-paid coupon system.
Under the coupon system, the $40 is paid in tokens sold by mid-stream operators to shippers in advance. But most shippers have refused to accept the arrangement. Only one had agreed to buy the coupons, said the Hong Kong Shippers' Council. Its vice-chairman, Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, said the imposition of the surcharge went against commercial principles.
A protest organiser, Wong Charn-kwan of the China-Hong Kong Transportation Joint Conference, said: 'If the mid-stream operators continue forcing us to buy the coupons, we shall certainly react promptly. We are only responsible for transporting the goods.'
Unionist legislator Chan Yuen-han, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, accused the mid-stream operators of a lack of sincerity in resolving the saga.
Andrew Wong Wang-fat, a non-affiliated legislator, called for government intervention as a last resort. But the Deputy Secretary for Economic Services, Alex Fong Chi-wai, said the Government's role was to 'enhance communications among various parties', and intervention in commercial disputes was not appropriate.