Auto shipments off at Delaware port

Auto shipments off at Delaware port

A drop in the number of Volkswagen shipments into the Port of Wilmington has resulted in some job losses and less work for port auto processors, truckers and longshoremen since the start of the year, according to a published report.

Volkswagen of America Inc. said Wilmington shipments have been reduced mainly because of an 18 percent decline in vehicle sales compared with last year. The company expects to import 51,000 vehicles this year into the port, compared with 67,000 last year, the News Journal reported.

But officials of Teamsters Local 326, which represents about 100 truckers and auto processors at the Wilmington port, and other port operators told the newspaper the automaker also has been shipping some cars previously destined for Wilmington to the port in Davisville, R.I., where processing is less expensive.

A Volkswagen spokesman said the shift is part of "normal business operations."

The report quoted the union as saying at least 30 truckers and processors have been laid off so far this year because of fewer Volkswagens coming into the port. The automaker is expected to import 25,000 to 30,000 fewer vehicles into Wilmington this year, and perform less processing of vehicles at the port before they are shipped to dealerships.

Volkswagen said that only nine processors had been laid off, with four more expected to lose their jobs by the end of this year. The company would not comment on truckers.

Port officials would not comment on the number of job losses associated with Volkswagen's reduction in shipments because the workers are not port employees, the newspaper reported.

Eugene Bailey, executive director for port operator Diamond State Corp., told the newspaper that the German automaker continues to honor its five-year lease, from which the port derives most of its income.

Volkswagen, which is the Port of Wilmington's largest tenant, recently signed a five-year contract with the port to lease 67 acres, with plans to expand by 23 acres in the next few years.