Strikes by union-organized lock workers on several key German waterway
canal systems began at 0600 CET (0400 GMT) Monday morning, halting barge
traffic through the systems, a spokesman at German service workers' union
Ver.di, which called for the strikes, said Monday morning.
The first strikes block shipping from the German Rhine through all
important tributary and connecting waterway canal systems in the northwestern
German state of North Rhine-Westphalia which borders the Netherlands and in
the southwestern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg which borders with
Switzerland, the Alp source of the Rhine.
River canal system lock workers in the remaining 10 states of
pre-reunification West Germany are to join the strikes starting Tuesday,
affecting such key Rhine tributary links as the Main River-Danube Canal links
to the German Danube and the Danube's locks system.
Locks in former East Germany and its Elbe River and linking canal
systems to Berlin and Brandenburg may participate in the walkout action later
though the recent flood disaster on those waterways may be limited, according
The walkouts were called by Ver.di to initially run through Sunday July
14, but may continue depending on months-long efforts to reach a settlement
for workers with Germany's Federal Transport Ministry's planned cost-cutting
reform of the country's aging waterway canal systems.
The strikes are creating major logistic planning snarls for shipping
enterprises that have been hard hit by less business and rising costs during
the last two years' general economic downturn.
"We're working long, long hours, including weekends, to line up
alternate delivery arrangements for customers," said a Hamburg shipping agent.
"It's a nightmare as I have some barges that can't move," said a trader.
Traders said the impact on wholesale product prices in Rotterdam remained
minimal for now, even if they fell last week.
Rotterdam diesel barges were assessed by Platts at front-month 0.1%
gasoil futures plus $13.50/mt, the lowest premium since February.
"It will depend on how long it takes place but I didn't expect a massive
move," said the trader.
The planned reform entails among other measures a reduction of 25% of
the country's present 12,500 lock workers force.
The German industry's inland waterway shipping industry's lobby BDB
strongly opposes the union strike and the reform.
"The dissatisfaction with the reform that has been discussed for over
two years is now to be carried out on the back of shipping and whole
logistics industry," said BDB president Georg Hoette in a statement.
Shipping companies are "massively angered," he said, adding that the
developments come on the heels of last month's major flooding and the
resulting disruption to shipping.
--Robert Ingersoll, email@example.com; Olivier Lejeune,
firstname.lastname@example.org; Charles Goldner, email@example.com
--Edited by Jeremy Lovell, firstname.lastname@example.org