ContainersPorts and Logistics

Port strikes the latest headache for shippers as peak season unfolds

The threat posed by strikes at ports in Asia, Europe and the US 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 unseasonably high congestion.

In Asia, meanwhile, an eight-day strike by South Korea’s unionised truckers came to an end late last night after the union and the transport ministry reached a tentative agreement, ending a nationwide strike that crippled ports and industrial hubs costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Over on the US west coast, finally, to the relief of shippers, the union and employers negotiating the contract for more than 22,000 port labourers on Tuesday said they are committed to reaching a deal and are not planning any work stoppages or lockouts that would worsen supply chain logjams.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) employer group have been in negotiations since May.

In a joint statement released Tuesday, the ILWU and PMA said that at a meeting in Los Angeles on Friday, they shared with US president Joe Biden their commitment to reaching a deal.

“Neither party is preparing for a strike or a lockout,” they said.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Port automation is the worst torture that an expert port worker will ever suffer… and seems inevitable: The rage will explode very soon!

  2. Same old same old eh? Blame the workers for protecting the conditions and pay by using the only means at tehir disposal (ie withdrawing their labour)
    If port employers and shippers are making ever better profits, then rather than screw the workers (those whos’ skill and labour actually enable the wealth to be created) take the alternative route and ensure that their wages keep pace with the improved production and profit of the company.
    The bigger the gap between profit and the income of those who create and enable it to happen then the more likely the increase in unrest and disruption.
    Corporate greed only has itself to blame, but (as ever) rather than admit that avarice it is easier to lay culpability for problems at the door of those seeking a more equitable solution.

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