The Summer of Discontent Hits UK’s Largest Port


The summer of discontent which has plagued the UK in recent weeks just got hotter.

Dockworkers at Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port, have walked off the job after contract negotiations with port authorities failed.  The union said about 1,900 of its members were taking action over the pay dispute, which is expected to last until August 29.

Shipping lines will divert services to other ports in the UK and North Europe to avoid the disruption or delay the arrive of vessels until after the work stoppage.  Carriers Maersk and Cosco have announced there will be no moratorium on demurrage and detention charge during the duration of the strike, sparking outrage among shippers.

The strike action is expected to disrupt $800 million in trade and will create more uncertainty for British business and consumers.  The backlog caused by the industrial action is also excepted to exacerbate the already high levels of congestion across Europe and will create more delays that will severely hinder international maritime trade.

A second port in the UK is also set to grind after hundreds of dockworkers in Liverpool overwhelmingly voted in favor of a strike action.  The ballot of Liverpool’s union members saw 99% vote in favor of the industrial action after the port failed to offer a large enough pay increase to cover the rising cost of inflation.  The timing and duration have yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, work stoppages are possible at German ports later this month as negotiations between the trade union Verdi and the German seaports remain inconclusive.  After the previous round of discussions failed earlier this month, the courts stepped in and banned the dockworkers from taking further industrial action until August 26.  The two sides will have until August 22 to reach a compromise.  If no compromise is made, we expect further strikes actions will be called, beginning on or shortly after August 27.  Carriers are already warning customers to expect disruption to continue through September, particularly in Hamburg and Bremerhaven.