Three simultaneous strikes by rail workers, truckers and bunker fuel tanker operators have severely curtailed operations at South Korea's major ports.
An ongoing rail strike, in which some 7,000 members of the rail union have stopped work across the country for the third week in a row, has halved the country’s rail capacity and severely impacted the ability for containers to move smoothly to and from Korea’s major ports.
With some terminals now nearing capacity, two further strikes, both running since Monday October 10, are further dampening the ports’ ability to carry out operations.
A general strike launched by the Cargo Truckers Solidarity union has removed a third of container transport capacity at Busan alone, in addition to the problems already being experienced with rail freight.
Launched in response to government attempts to deregulate the number of small trucks used for making deliveries to homes, drivers want a standard rate to be introduced for the work they do, to protect their livelihoods.
Kang Ho-in, Transport Minister for Korea said: “The government will sternly deal with this strike in accordance with the law and its principle,”
To add to the misery for ports, fuel bunker operators at the ports of Busan, Ulsan, and Yeosu have gone on strike, demanding an increase in operating fees paid by refiners. More than 200 out of 680 bunker tankers across South Korea are striking and expect to continue to do so until the end of the month.
South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said: “Arrangements are being made to divert ships scheduled to be fuelled in Busan, Yeosu, and Ulsan, to other ports. In addition, bunker tanker operators not participating in the strike in these ports have been asked to carry out their business in other ports for the time being,”
With the collapse of Hanjin already causing capacity problems at some terminals, these three strikes could not come at a worse time for South Korea’s ports.