Hundreds of workers at Port Sudan went on strike Monday against Khartoum's reported deal to transfer control of its container terminal to a Philippine company, fearing job losses, a union leader said.
About 1,400 workers stopped work as Prime Minister Moutaz Mousa Abdallah was visiting the facility to discuss the issue with them, Osman Tahir told AFP.
"The workers are protesting against the signing of the deal between the government and a Philippine company," Tahir said, adding that workers anticipated job cuts after a transfer of the terminal.
Sudan has not made any official announcement, but the International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) last July informed the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission of a deal with cash-starved Khartoum.
Sudan's state-run Sea Ports Corporation (SPC) had confirmed ICTSI as "the preferred bidder to operate and manage the South Port Container Terminal at the port of Port Sudan under a 20-year concession," ICTSI said.
The company said on its website that the tender process had been led by SPC with Hamburg Port Consulting as international adviser and attracted bids from a number of international operators.
SPC governs, constructs and maintains the east African country's ports, harbours and lighthouses.
"The workers are angry. They went on strike even when the prime minister came to discuss the issue," Tahir said. "The strike has paralysed the facility, with several ships still waiting to be unloaded."
The port strike comes as Sudan has been rocked by daily demonstrations for the past two months, with angry crowds calling for President Omar al-Bashir's resignation.
Protesters have rallied across cities, towns and villages, including in Port Sudan, accusing the government of mismanaging the economy.
Sudan's economic woes have long caused popular frustration but anger spilt out onto the streets in December after the government tripled the price of bread.
A lengthy strike at Port Sudan, the country's vital economic artery, would further damage its already dilapidated economy.
Soaring inflation along with acute foreign currency shortages have severely impacted the economy, especially after the independence of South Sudan in 2011 that took along with it the bulk of oil earnings.