Strikes at the Port of Hong Kong have now entered their 20th day with no end yet in sight.
Shipments continued to be delayed to and from the world’s third-largest container port as productivity at facilities operated by Hongkong International Terminals — a subsidiary of global port giant Hutchison Port Holdings Trust (HPH Trust) and the main target of the action — are affected by shortages of key workers.
Ocean carriers have rerouted numerous vessel calls at HIT’s facilities, but liner and logistics sources continue to report lengthy delays at the port operator’s five owned or co-owned terminals.
“In general, the delay for export vessels is around two days, while import vessels may be delayed as long as five days in some cases,” said Jacques Chan, BDP International’s general manager for Hong Kong and South China. “In terms of trade lanes affected, delays for intra-Asia shipments are more severe than the major trade lanes” — Asia to Europe, and the trans-Pacific routes.
However, a statement from HIT claimed staffing levels were improving and operations were almost normalized. “The terminals’ throughput varies over the course of the year with high and low seasons,” HIT said.
“We are currently in a relatively low season. With the continuation of the labor issue, we are moving between 20,000 and 25,000 TEUs per day, with operations running close to 90 percent of normal levels.”
Talks over pay and conditions between striking dockers and the third-party contractors that employ them at HIT have so far failed to make progress, and workers have threatened to escalate their actions.
They have been joined on the picket line at Kwai Tsing by Australian maritime workersrepresenting the Maritime Union of Australia.
Paddy Crumlin, MUA national secretary and president of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, said Australian maritime workers were “shocked” by the treatment of the Kwai Tsing dockworkers under their current contracting arrangements.
Unions claim crane workers are not allowed to leave cabins during 12-hour shifts even if they need to use the bathroom, and workers are kept under surveillance in the cabins.
“HIT — which is a subsidiary of the global network terminal operator Hutchison — needs to make sure that workers are treated decently and paid fairly, including in their subcontracting arrangements,” Crumlin said.
“To see hardly any increase in pay for more than a decade is just one part of the problem — the other part relates to the disgraceful treatment of these workers. It's employment more akin to slave labor.
“These abuses must stop, and HIT, in particular, needs to show that they are committed to ending the exploitation of outsourced dockworkers in their subcontracting arrangements.”
HIT denied workers are treated inhumanely on its premises, with rest periods in place during shifts and facilities available inside the terminal for workers to take a break.
Contact Mike King at email@example.com.