Shippers eye Australia port strike for escalation

Shippers eye Australia port strike for escalation

This week’s planned strike action at Brisbane follows strikes last week at all four of DP World’s Australian terminals in the ports of Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane (pictured) Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

Australian shippers as of Monday were experiencing minimal cargo disruption in the wake of an industrial action that began last week at four terminals in Australia operated by DP World.

However, Paul Zalai, director of the Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) and the Australian Peak Shippers Association, reiterated concerns the dockworker dispute could escalate and impact other terminal operators.

A dispute between the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Hutchison Ports Australia in January spread to other operators after carriers turned to other facilities to load and unload their ships, Zalai told JOC.com.

“If it really happens again, this time other terminals won’t want things disrupted,” said Zalai, whose group represents nearly 100 importers and exporters, among them Cargill, Kmart Australia, Costco Wholesale Australia, Alibaba, and Target.

DP World said the MUA has given notice of a 24-hour strike at the terminal operator’s Brisbane terminal on Wednesday and a four-hour stoppage at the same terminal on Friday. Sinotrans Integrated Logistics Australia said vessel and road operations will be affected, although road operations to Brisbane’s automated terminals will continue as normal.

This week’s planned strike action at Brisbane follows strikes last week at all four of DP World’s Australian terminals in the ports of Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. Terminal operations were halted by a 24-hour strike at Fremantle that ended 6 a.m. local time Monday. DP World has already canceled talks that had been scheduled for Tuesday with the MUA, saying it would not negotiate a new employment agreement while threatened by or during industrial action.

Dockworkers belonging to the MUA voted on March 15 to start industrial action against DP World Australia in a dispute over pay and insurance protection. Warren Smith, MUA assistant national secretary, said DP World Australia could step up its action against dockworkers by locking out the longshoremen. “It wouldn’t be a surprise to us if they did. They have done it to us in previous disputes,” Smith told JOC.com.

He said the union would react by picketing terminals where lockouts occurred.

The MUA, which has about 16,000 members, is part of the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU).

“At this stage, the MUA is continuing to roll out protected industrial action across each of our sites,” a DP World Australia spokesperson told JOC.com.

“DP World Australia is exploring every opportunity possible to minimize the disruption to our customers that has been caused by the irresponsible actions of the CFMMEU. At times, this may include subcontracting vessels to other terminals,” the spokesperson added.

In statements to carriers, DP World Australia added, “These actions are deliberately causing harm to shipping lines, transport and rail operators, and employees who continue to lose wages.”

Contact Keith Wallis at keithwallis@hotmail.com.