In the largest German port in Hamburg, the workers are threatening a strike. If the negotiations on wage increases for the approximately 12,000 employees in the German seaports do not make any progress on Tuesday, a walkout could result.
Most recently, the Central Association of German Seaport Companies (ZDS) presented a new offer. The core is an increase in hourly wages by 90 cents and an increase in lump sum payments. According to the association, the offer corresponds to a volume of between six percent and almost eight percent wage increase over a period of twelve months. The demands of the responsible trade union Verdi are higher.
In Antwerp, the second-largest seaport in Northern Europe after Rotterdam and before Hamburg, dockworkers recently went on strike for 24 hours for better working conditions and pay. With these actions, the problems of worldwide shipping continue unabated. While the outbreak of the corona pandemic initially extended delivery times by weeks and months and increased transport costs tenfold at peak times, Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine and the renewed lockdown in Shanghai have recently led to further disruptions in sea transport.
The Port Congestion Index of the Clarkson shipping file, which is important for shipping and measures the congestion in seaports worldwide, currently shows a new high of almost eight percent. “We believe that the current delays, which affect not only the ports but also the infrastructure in land transport, will persist at least until the first quarter of 2023,” the shipping service G-Captain quoted the responsible logistics manager at Visy Industries, Peter sundara The CEO of the Hapag-Lloyd shipping company also recently announced that the situation would only ease significantly in the coming year.
In the course of 2023, the shipping companies will get new container ships and expand their capacities. Ship orders are currently 25 percent higher than at the same time last year. But there are currently hardly any cargo ships available. For example, the number of lying and thus unused ship units is lower than it has been for many years.
Rising freight costs, longer transit times and greater uncertainty about the course of transport will become the “new normal” in logistics, the new everyday life. A trend that emerges from this is significantly longer contract terms for chartered ships between freight forwarders and shipping companies. It is fitting that the discounter Lidl has announced the purchase of its own cargo ships in order to reliably get goods from Asia to Northern Europe.
The world’s second largest container shipping company, Maersk, is now considering its own solutions to counteract the container jams in the seaports and the consequences of the dock workers’ strikes. Containers are to be transported from overcrowded ports to other locations, collected there and later distributed from there.
According to Maersk, traffic jams in Bremerhaven, for example, have reached “a critical level”. It is similar in Rotterdam. Maersk gives a value of 80 percent for the occupancy of the port areas. A big problem is the imbalance: the number of containers for export and boxes for import is no longer in a ratio that allows smooth operation. As a result, the terminals would work increasingly unproductively.
According to shipping experts, the container ports lack the air to breathe. “It doesn’t help if we load thousands of containers onto an already full container terminal just because the waiting times for the ships will otherwise be even longer. We need space on the quay wall for distribution ships in order to relieve the port area,” says an expert at G-Captain. Shipping managers are campaigning to revise transit times and adjust them to realities. “If that means that we no longer have weekly arrivals, but arrive every eight or nine days, then so be it,” says one expert.
Meanwhile, the situation in the world’s largest container port, Shanghai, is improving. According to the London shipping file Vessels Value, operations have largely returned to normal, regardless of the current restrictions due to the corona pandemic.
After that, the average waiting times for container ships corresponded to the usual values again: while it was 69 hours at the end of April, it is now around 34 hours with a downward trend.
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