Belgium: Strike action could tarnish our reputation, says Port of Antwerp
More strike action is causing major problems at the Port of Antwerp today as nationwide industrial action grips Belgium and paralyzes operations.
Currently 50 vessels are blocked either coming in or going out of the port, with expectations this number will not get too much higher as the day goes on.
Aside from the delays caused to cargo ships, dock workers have downed tools for the day to take part in the strike organized by several trade unions protesting over the government's austerity measures.
Operations are due to start up again around 8pm today and the backlog will take quite some time to clear, according to Port of Antwerp press officer Annik Dirkx.
"There are very few dockers at work today so port operations as a whole are affected but I think the most visible aspect is the ships that are currently waiting," she told www.fresfruitportal.com.
"This is obviously not only a port strike. It is affecting a lot of sectors in our country including the port but also the airport, public transport, public services, warehouses and more besides.
"It doesn't really matter how many people are involved, it is the consequences and the results of strike action that matter and we see a country that is at a very low pace today so that’s the most visible thing and the only thing that matters for us."
Dirkx added that although port authorities had planned as much as possible for today's action, any type of strike affects the long-term standing of the port.
"It's the reputation of the port that is at stake because we have to explain to our clients and customers that once again, for the second time in two months, we have a strike and that their goods are not where they should be at a certain time.
"We would like the unions and political parties to find a more sustainable way to discuss the problems that our country is facing because this is not the solution.
"In their (the unions) opinion you start up tomorrow and everything is back to normal but it’s not like that. Indeed you can start again and indeed we will do our utmost to get rid of the backlog and get everything back to normal but it will take at least 24 hours."
The port is expected to be running at a 'normal pace' by the end of the week.
Photo: MSC Home Terminal, via Wikimedia Commons