Truckers-fiscal board deadlock could cause shortages

By John McPhaul

José Nazario, vice president of operations of the Crowley shipping company, said Thursday that if the deadlock between truckers, private companies, the island government and the Financial Oversight and Management Board due to haulage rates is extended for additional time, a crisis in supplies will materialize.

“If this [extends into] the weekend, it can affect [supply lines],” Nazario said in a radio interview (WKAQ). “I hope that this [issue] will be resolved on its merits by the government and the board promptly.”

The prospect of supply shortages alarmed the public to the point that long lines formed on Thursday to fill up gas tanks at filling stations. Waits of up to two hours were reported.

Nazario said that, anticipating the situation, the company increased the entry hours to the docks so that owners could take their cargo before the “permanent assembly,” which has halted over-the-road deliveries, began at midnight Wednesday. Another barge was received during the day Wednesday, but as of midday Thursday no trucks had arrived at the terminal. The barge contained supplies for pharmaceutical companies, megastores and automobiles, among others.

On Tuesday night, the general adviser of the oversight board, Jaime El Koury, sent a letter to the chairman of the Bureau of Transportation and Other Public Services, Jaime Lafuente, in which he informed Lafuente of the federal entity’s refusal to regulate haulage rates.

“The Board understands that as the regulations do not comply with the Fiscal Plan, they cannot be approved at this time, particularly with respect to private contracts,” El Koury in his letter. “The Board is willing to work with the Transportation Bureau to achieve a regulation that complies with the Fiscal Plan, that achieves the objective of the regulation, including an adequate increase in haulage rates, but that does not include private contracts.”

Truckers Coalition spokesman Carlos Rodríguez said that if the deadlock is over private contractors, the group is willing to take that issue out of the discussion.

“They bring up the ‘issue’ of contract porters. If that is their concern, and the people of MIDA [Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution) have not presented evidence of a single private contract before the bureau, then we are going to resolve that separately at the table, in a satisfactory way,” Rodríguez said in a radio interview (NotiUno). “For the parties, the regulation is passed and this impasse is resolved.”

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