The Port of Antwerp-Bruges, one of Europe’s largest ports, is braced for another strike, coming at a time where the Belgian facility is suffering from unseasonably high congestion.
A national strike has been scheduled for Monday by many trade unions demanding better pay, better social dialogue and investment in the public sector. A similar one-day national strike at the end of May crippled many port operations in the country with most pilots downing tools and locks not functioning.
“Depending on employee participation active in port related jobs, we are facing constraints on our operational activities,” states a note seen by Splash which has been sent out to clients of PSA International. PSA is the major terminal operator in Antwerp, the Belgian city serving as the Singapore port operator’s flagship facility in Europe.
The ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge officially started work as a unified entity in April. Branded as the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, the enlarged entity is Europe’s largest export port and employs 74,000 people. Other records it can lay claim to include being the continent’s biggest car port. The port is already facing considerable stress as the peak season gets underway.
German container line Hapag-Lloyd suspended barge services in the city this month on the back of growing terminal congestion. Barge operator Contargo warned a week ago that wait times at Antwerp had jumped from 33 hours at the end of May to 46 hours as of June 9.
The threat posed by strikes at ports in Europe is weighing heavily on shippers’ minds as this year’s peak season unfolds.
Last Friday saw a brief, threatening downing of tools by dockworkers in Hamburg, the first strike action at Germany’s top port in more than three decades, as pay negotiations, which also involve other northern German port cities, falter. Unions in the Hanseatic city are threatening further industrial action at a time where the port is already suffering from high congestion.