At least two people were arrested when they threw rocks at the lorries of those not taking part in the protest [Reuters]

Striking lorry drivers have gathered in Shanghai's main harbour district for the third day to protest against high fuel costs and new charges imposed on them by logistics companies.

About 600 people gathered outside the office of a logistics company near Baoshan port on Friday, some throwing rocks at lorries driven by those who have not joined the strikers.

There are signs that their action is now beginning to affect exports from China's busiest container port.

Many of the strikers are independent contractors who carry goods to and from the port. They called a three-day strike starting on Wednesday to demand that the government address their concerns.

Some of the striking drivers clashed with police on Thursday, and on Wednesday some overturned a vehicle belonging to the local traffic department.

On Friday, as many as 50 police officers had been dispatched to the area, and at least two people were arrested for throwing stones.

Talks to take place

The crowd dispersed after a policeman said that authorities now plan to meet with the drivers' representatives to hold talks aimed at ending the strike. He said an announcement would be made on Monday regarding the outcome of the talks.

Earlier, workers had told the Reuters news agency that they planned to continue their strike as they had not seen a response from the government.

The strike in Shanghai comes against the backdrop of rising consumer prices, with inflation on consumer goods hitting 5.4 per cent in March. Authorities responded by saying they would be making every effort to rein in prices, which continue to rise as the country's GDP continues its steady growth.

Exports affected

An official at a shipping company told Reuters that the strike has begun to have an effect on exports from the port.

"The strike has delayed exports and many ships cannot take on a full load before leaving," Wei Yujun, assistant to the general manager at the China Star Distribution Centre (Shanghai) Company, said.

"For example, if one ship carries 5,000 containers en route to Hong Kong and the US, now they can only carry 1,000 or 2,000 containers," Wei added.

Another official, who requested anonymity, however, said that the strike has had no effect on exports.

In 2010, Shanghai overtook Singapore to become the world's busiest container port, handling 29.05 million 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs. That number was 500,000 more than Singapore.

The unrest is occuring near at least two of the port's five major working zones: Waigaoqiao, a massive free-trade zone and bonded storage warehouse, and Yangshan, a deep water port.

Several traders also told Reuters that trade in refined copper was being affected by the strikes, though so far it has only served to cause delays in customs clearance.

Source: Agencies