Optimism Builds for Hong Kong Deal as Delays Mount

Optimism Builds for Hong Kong Deal as Delays Mount

Dockworker unions at the heart of a five-week strike at the Port of Hong Kong hinted they might downgrade pay demands, providing the government with some hope that talks scheduled for Tuesday between labor representatives and third-party labor suppliers may yield an agreement.

For now, however, forwarders report little improvement in service levels at terminals operated by HIT, a subsidiary of global port giant Hutchison Port Holdings Trust and the target of the action.

“We are still experiencing delays of two to five days for import shipments and one to two days for export shipments on average,” said Jacques Chan, BDP International’s general manager for Hong Kong and South China.

HIT declined comment, but another forwarder source said the current average waiting time to berth at HIT’s terminals was about 30 hours.

Complete coverage of Hong Kong strike

Chan said operational pressure was increasing on HIT because of a surge in barges arriving at Hong Kong due to this week’s Labor Day holidays in China, which run through Wednesday.

“In order to avoid the risk of delay, we are working closely with our customers to arrange bookings with vessels which will not be affected by the strike,” Chan said.

More than 100 ships have been rerouted away from HIT’s terminals since the dispute began on March 28, resulting in analysts downgrading HPH Trust’s earnings outlook for 2013.

Contact Mike King at mikeking121@gmail.com.