Labor Dispute Led to Gothenburg Port Traffic Fall

Gothenburg’s container traffic went down  22 percent in the first half of 2017 to a 16-year low due to a bitter labor dispute at APM Terminals that is in its second year with no solution in sight, according to the Journal of Commerce.

The dispute between the operator, APMT, and section 4 of the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union began back in May 2016. It has continued despite the fact that APMT has signed and is a party to the industry’s collective agreement. The situation has led the government to take action and set up an enquiry to review labour market rules.  Repeated government efforts to end the dispute have been unsuccessful.

“The consequences for Swedish trade are immense, as several services to key market have been withdrawn, including direct services that are vital to both imports and exports,” said Magnus Karestedt, chief executive of the Gothenburg Port Authority.  “A great deal of freight has been shifted from sea to road, investments are failing to materialize, and jobs have disappeared. ”

The dispute has led to slowdowns, blockades, overtime bans and strikes by dockers while APM Terminals launched a partial six-week lock out earlier in the year and announced 160 dismissals in June.

The issue has grown so severe that ACL, which has served the port for 50 years, has publicly expressed doubts about whether it can continue to call there.

Repeated attempts by national mediators to resolve the dispute have failed, prompting the Swedish government to launch an enquiry to review the country’s labor market rules.

Gothenburg’s container traffic was already weakening before the dispute, dipping 3 percent in 2016 to 798,000 TEU from 820,000 TEU in 2015 despite new calls by larger vessels on the Asia-Europe trade. The port could end 2017 more than 300,000 TEU down from the 925,000 TEU handled in 2012.

Other cargoes have continued to increase, however, with first half roll-on, roll-off volume 7 percent higher at 291,000 units against 272,000 units a year earlier, automobile traffic up 14 percent to 137,000 from 121,000 and crude oil shipments increasing seven percent to 12 million tonnes.

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