Mediterranean Shipping Co. said it is reconsidering its operations at the Port of Antwerp as a pilot strike paralyzes shipping at Europe’s third-largest container hub for the fourth straight day.
The world’s second largest ocean carrier, which accounts for over two-thirds of Antwerp’s container traffic, has begun diverting some calls from its main European hub to the neighboring port of Rotterdam. The strike, over government plans to raise the national retirement age from 63 to 65, is preventing more than 70 ships, including over 20 MSC container vessels, from entering or leaving the port.
“The damage that the action of the pilots has caused us is making us rethink our position in Antwerp,” MSC said.
“MSC does not understand this action by the pilots ... and will reconsider its investment policy towards [the region of] Flanders.”
The carrier said it cannot understand how the pilots can walk off the job at a time when container shipping is suffering a deep crisis. The port authority said the strike action is costing around $1.3 million hourly.
Antwerp pilots, dockers and lock operators joined Belgium’s first general strike in more than two decades on January 27, shutting down the port for 24 hours. Container shipping has also been disrupted in Rotterdam for the past two weeks as dockers at APM Terminals’ facility stage walk outs in a dispute over a new labor contract linked to government pension reforms.
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