Viewpoint: Labor disputes in Germany are the new problem of the supply chain crisis

The suspension of talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association is not the only labor issue in the exchanges.

Another looms.


The terminal operators’ union is threatening to go on strike to protest wages and increased work demands. An apparent slowdown in labor can be tracked by container flow.

SONAR’s Ocean TEU Volume Index shows continued decline in vessel departures.

Data from Crane Worldwide Logistics shows that there are more than 20 ships awaiting unloading at the Port of Hamburg.

Andreas Braun, director of EMEA ocean freight products at Crane Worldwide Logistics, told American Shipper that coordination between terminal operators and intermodal operators is deteriorating.

“We expect a further worsening in German ports,” Braun explained.

The port of Hamburg is known as the “gateway to the world”. Germany’s largest seaport by volume, Hamburg is the third busiest port in Europe and the 15th in the world. Bottom line: This port is important.

The container hoard has only been exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine. Containers must be opened and products prohibited by Russia must be taken out by customs. This slows down the processing of containers so that they can be filled with European exports to the United States.

In addition to this, the port has also suspended reception of export trains until further notice. The port listed the main problem as “entrance tracks fully occupied, delays of trains from Hamburg, reconstruction work and irregularities and limitations in the external infrastructure”.

This labor dispute is the fourth horseman of logistical uncertainty, galloping with stalled negotiations between the ILWU and the PMA, the impending rise in containers after the reopening of Shanghai and the peak season.

The journey time between Hamburg and the port of New York and New Jersey is already getting longer.

American Shipper was the first to warn European logisticians about empty containers. Logistics companies have already started informing their customers about the problem.

Asked about logistics companies’ concerns, Port of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Bethann Rooney recently said, “We are encouraging ocean carriers to deploy sweepers to evacuate large numbers of empty containers. Sending the empties to Europe rather than sending them back to Asia would benefit the Port of New York and New Jersey, especially if the sweepers can immediately return for a subsequent trip to pick up the next group of empties.

But as we’ve seen with carriers’ preference to send export empties back to China instead of carrying US exports loaded, will carriers do what Rooney suggests? This makes perfect sense, but the almighty dollar has swayed good judgment.

“Once the backlog in China on trade to the west of the Far East is cleared up, the congestion situation in front of the ports of the NWC (North West Continent in Europe) and the availability of containers will improve. will get worse,” Braun warned. “Shipping companies already have problems planning their exports according to the influx of their import containers. Shippers should be prepared for turnover to increase and pre-booking windows to be extended. »

The rejection rate is already going up.

The flow of trade is in the hands of the unions. Container handling and port productivity are key indicators.

Unfortunately, we are in a climate of no compromise.

Winston Churchill once said of World War II, “Never let a good crisis go to waste. While something positive was created (the United Nations), this quote is now normally associated with negative demagogic actions and intentional selfish actions.

The chapter of this pandemic story is still being written. The pen is in the hands of the participants in the trade. Right now, the story is a cliffhanger, adding further uncertainty for logistics managers.

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