South African terminals remain choked up as strike action ends

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - APRIL 9, 2017: Early morning close-up of container ship and red loading cranes in harbor in Durban, South Africa

Works at container terminals around South Africa continue to stagger as liners omit calls around the nation’s ports.

The congestion is a result of strike action from the United National Transport Union (UNTU) and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) in a walkout over a pay dispute that has rolled on for months.

Owner and operator of ports infrastructure Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) formally declared Force Majeure on 6 October.

Earlier this week Transnet reached a three-year wage agreement with UNTU.

On 17 October, SATAWU released a scathing statement condemning the deal, complaining of “shock and utmost disappointment” of the contract – and vowing to continue to strike.

On 20 October, however, SATAWU announced it will be calling off its strike and returning to operations immediately.

It will take some time for shipping backlogs to be cleared: earlier this week CMA CGM notified shippers that the CMA CGM Nabucco 23E will omit Cape Town on her Eastbound call.

CMA CGM also advised that there will be a Port Elizabeth omission of CMA CGM VALPARAISO 241N due to berthing delay experienced in Durban.

In a 19 October operations update, Hapag-Lloyd wrote: “Landside and waterside operations have resumed, but staff availability is still limited, resulting in low productivity.

“TPT’s focus areas are the return to work, addressing the backlog across the terminals and the implementation of recovery plans. We are continuously working on alternative solutions to minimise disruptions for your cargo planning.”

The strike in South Africa was likely to affect the importation of goods critical to the South African economy, according to FourKites.

Strikes across the world have halted works at ports: most recently in LiverpoolFelixstowe, and across South Africa’s ports sector.

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