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German Port Strikes to Worsen European Cargo Bottlenecks - BLOOMBERG

JUNE 18, 2024

Disruptions at Germany’s biggest ports this week threaten to worsen shipping delays, land-side logistical snarls and inflationary pressures as local dockworkers halt work for better pay.

According to Maersk, the world’s No. 2 container carrier, strikes called Monday at the ports of Hamburg, Bremen, Bremerhaven, Brake and Emden may run into Tuesday.

“This will have widespread implications on our network, with multiple vessels already planned to be worked today and tomorrow,” Maersk said in a customer advisory Monday. “With current outlook on the vessels, we do expect a knock-on effect for all vessels. Consequently, this will cause further delays.”

Five German Ports Are Striking

Bremerhaven is a major hub for automobile exports and imports.

Hamburg is Europe’s third-busiest container port after Rotterdam and Antwerp, and also serves as a key gateway for industrial materials and bulk cargo. The strike could cause cargo bottlenecks through its facilities, already estimated to be running at 65% to 90% capacity.

“At the face of it, work stoppages lasting 24-48 hours could be seen as a minor event to the outsider — but not to the insider,” said Peter Sand, chief analyst at Xeneta, an Oslo-based freight analytics platform. “Shippers will get hit, carriers may need to omit port calls — discharging cargo in another hopefully nearby port — at a point in time when all container shipping supply-chain stakeholders are struggling to move cargo efficiently.”

Shipping rates into northern Europe are already rising amid strained capacity:

Shipping Rates to Northern Europe Are Soaring

Spot rate for Asia-to-Rotterdam 40-foot container hit $6,177 last week

Germany’s inland transport system suffered problems from heavy rain earlier this month in the southern part of the country. Flooding also took German hydroelectric plants offline or reduce their output, putting more pressure on the country’s power supply.

Meanwhile, IG Metall — Germany’s largest labor union — is seeking a wage increase of 7% for about 3.9 million workers in the metal and electric parts industries to make up for steep consumer-price gains over past years.

Far Apart

The recommendation by IG Metall’s executive board would cover a period of 12 months and follow a deal in 2022 that lifted compensation by 8.5%. In the run-up to Monday’s announcement, employer association Suedwestmetall had argued against raising pay at all.

Such sharply diverging views suggest that any compromise will be hard fought for. Negotiations are set to start in September and will be closely scrutinized by the European Central Bank, according to reporting Tuesday from Bloomberg’s Jana Randow and Alexander Weber.

Europe’s largest economy is set to remain weak after shrinking in 2023. Manufacturing in particular is struggling with sluggish demand and trade uncertainty amid looming US elections, strained relations with China and geopolitical threats.

Brendan Murray in London

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