Cargo backlog as Finland dockers strike ends
The two-week long stevedores strike in Finland, which ended on Friday, has led to cargo backlog in northern European ports and had a crippling effect on the Finland"s export industries, as the nation"s dockers return to work this week.
Juha Mutru, managing director of Finnish port operator"s association Satamaoperaattorit, told Lloyd"s List that the strike had a disastrous financial effect on Finland"s terminal operating companies.
?Our members have lost a lot of income during this period. Initially there was a ban on overtime work, and then there was 15 days of strikes.?
The strike, which involved 3,000 workers and centred on severance pay, was called off last Friday after both sides, workers union AKT and Satamaoperaattorit, accepted a compromise tabled by Finland"s national conciliator Esa Lonka.
?Both parties had to make some compromises and the new agreement is valid for two years,? Mr Mutru said.
However, shippers will be forced to pay higher charges in the short term as the blockade on imports has been lifted, leading to a serious trade imbalance, with boxes for Finland having accumulated at north European hub ports.
Danish feeder operator Unifeeder said that it was applying a temporary ?64 ($88) per teu surcharge on cargo shipped to Finnish ports.
In a message to customers the carrier said: ?We are now planning in detail how to cope with the large backlog of cargo that has piled up at hub ports. There is a considerable volume of import cargo to be shipped to Finland, but only limited export volumes.
?The amount of extra costs due to the imbalance, implementing a capacity upgrade, extra overtime costs and costs related to possible congestion is vast.?
Similarly, German feeder carrier Team Lines has announced a ?72 per teu post-strike surcharge for northbound containers into Finland, which it said will initially apply for three weeks.
Maersk Line said it had around 2,000 Finland-bound boxes in Bremerhaven and 1,500 in Gdynia, but Maersk director of operations Steffen Conradsen said these would be relatively simple to clear.
?The majority of these will be cleared in a few days using our own tonnage and also Unifeeder"s, who we subcontract Finnish volumes to,? he said.
?The issue here is not so much clearing the cargo, but that when the ports re-open there"s such a lot of ships waiting to call that it"s a question of getting the berthing windows ? and that"s a work in progress. In my experience, it will take the ports a few days to get up to full speed.
?This was absolutely nothing compared to the strike in Piraeus a couple of years ago. The advantage in this situation is that there are no real transhipment operations taking place in Finland, it is import/export traffic. When there are transhipment boxes, congestion really builds up.?
However, while shipping lines have emerged from the action relatively unscathed, Finland"s exporters, in particular its forest and paper producers, fear more lasting damage as estimates of the cost of the strike climbed towards the ?2bn mark.
Finnish Forest Industries Federation executive vice-president Jari Forss said: ?Mills will be starting up gradually over a few days, depending on the logistics. The forest industry will be cleaning up the mess caused by the stevedore strike for a long time.
?The flow of export revenues was cut off after the strike halted the forest industry"s client deliveries. Whenever possible, companies transferred production to other plants in Europe. The forest industry in Finland lost orders for good because clients can no longer rely on the delivery ability of Finnish factories.?
The Confederation of Finnish Industries estimated the value of Finnish exports to be ?110m per day and said some Finnish exporters lost business permanently.
Confederation labour market director Eeva-Liisa Inkeroinen said: ?Halting exports in the current economic situation demonstrates complete disregard for the wellbeing of society. These actions demonstrate that a small key group is ready to cause unreasonable damage for all society in order to pursue the demands of its members that are completely out of line with other branches of industry.?