Kwai Tsing dock workers strike

Port measures Hong Kong dock workers' strike at 90 ships

Operator estimates impact of dockers' walkout on cargo arrivals if action continues to April 21

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 7:58am

A total of 90 vessels are expected to have bypassed the Kwai Tsing container terminals run by the strike-hit port operator if the walkout lasts until April 21, the company says.

Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) also said that with more dockers returning to work, the daily financial loss it suffered had dropped from HK$5 million when the strike started on March 28 to HK$2.4 million last Friday.

But one of the strike organisers, Chan Chiu-wai, said he disagreed with HIT's claim, saying its financial losses remained large since only about 20 out of 500 dockers had returned to work.

A spokeswoman for HIT said 90 vessels were expected to have skipped its terminals if the strike lasted until April 21. She did not say how many vessels were expected to actually arrive at HIT's terminals during this period.

She also said that since HIT won an injunction forcing striking dockers out of the terminals on Monday last week, the daily financial loss had been "reduced significantly", to HK$2.4 million as of last Friday.

"The situation has improved further over the last few days," she said. "We are now operating at about 80 per cent of usual operating levels and are making steady improvements. An increasing number of strikers are returning to work."

HIT was making every effort to ensure the steady flow of cargo through the terminals, she said, and no containers had been stranded at the terminals.

But the Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics estimated that 120,000 containers were stuck at the port, after it spoke to shipping firms. And industry insiders have said the volume of cargo handled by HIT has halved since the strike began, as vessels were going to other ports.

Meanwhile, Andrew Tung Lieh-cheung, chief executive of Orient Overseas Container Line, said the dispute at HIT had led to "some impact" on the shipping line's operations. But the Tung-family controlled container line was "not a big user of HIT", he said. "We deal with disruption around the world all the time," he said on the sidelines of a shipping conference in Singapore.

Tung said the issue facing the firm was whether "this is a one-time event" or if it marked the start of a structural change. "We think productivity will pick up" when the dispute is over, he said.

Separately, Paddy Crumlin, president of the International Transport Workers' Federation, visited the dockers yesterday.

"Four and a half million transport workers around the world are united in their solidarity with the [Union of Hong Kong Dockers] and other workers in the port in the struggle for decent treatment and fair pay," he said.

He criticised HIT's parent company Hutchison Whampoa for treating the dockers only a little better than "caged animals".