A strike by dockworkers at Hongkong International Terminals is entering its third week, but, despite the size and importance of Hong Kong as a gateway to China, the job action so far has had minimal impact on imports and exports at U.S. ports.
Shipping lines that would normally call at facilities managed by the largest marine terminal operator in Hong Kong are skipping the port and calling at ports in South China. The other large terminal operator in Hong Kong, Modern Terminals, is unaffected by the strike.
Unionized dockworkers at HIT say they have received hardly any wage increases in more than 10 years. They also seek better working conditions. The company, a subsidiary of Hutchison Port Holdings, said workers are treated humanely, with the appropriate rest periods and sanitary rest rooms.
Vessel delays at HIT-operated wharves continue because of a shortage of workers, although intra-Asia shipments appear to be bearing the brunt of the delays. Trans-Pacific carriers and U.S. ports can point to only isolated examples of delays or reduced shipments.
While getting berthing slots at other ports and terminals in South China can be a challenge, trade from China is just starting to ramp up after an unusually long closure of factories for the annual Lunar New Year celebration. China’s exports are down because of the economic recession in Europe, so factory owners were in no rush this year to reopen.
Ben Hackett, principal at Ben Hackett Associates and publisher of Global Port Tracker reports on the trans-Pacific and Asia-Europe trades, said the two large trade lanes have experienced very little impact from the strike at HIT. He noted that Global Terminals in Hong Kong is still working, and carriers have other options, such as calling at Hutchison facilities in South China that are not affected by the strike in Hong Kong.