Le Havre handled roughly 7.5 percent fewer containers in 2011 than in the previous year after strikes over labor reforms depressed traffic at France’s biggest container port in the first quarter.
The decrease, to 2.22 million 20-foot equivalent units, was accompanied by a 4 percent drop in overall traffic to 68.5 million metric tons, the third consecutive decline.
Le Havre’s lower container traffic contrasted with rising throughput at most other European ports. Major rival Antwerp saw traffic rise 2.3 percent to a record 8.68 million TEUs, while throughput at Rotterdam grew 6 percent to 11.9 million TEUs, also a record.
Le Havre’s container traffic increased year-over-year in the each of the final three quarters of 2011 after dockers agreed to new working practices, which have increased productivity by 15 percent, the port authority said.
The port froze 2012 harbor dues for the third year running in a bid to recoup lost traffic and regain the confidence of ocean carriers.
Le Havre is opening a new $215 million four berth box terminal this year that will be able to handle container ships up to 14,000 TEUs capacity without tidal restraints. The terminal, a joint venture with Mediterranean Shipping Co., will boost Le Havre’s annual capacity by around 1.2 million TEUs.
The northern French port is targeting 5 million TEUs annual traffic by 2020.
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