Cagro ship Storm © Lasse Behnke
© Lasse Behnke

Deepwater Container Terminal (DCT) Gdansk experienced record volumes in 2016, while neighbouring Baltic port Gothenburg saw in the new year with labour troubles that dented its performance over the past 12 months.

APM Terminal Gothenburg’s managing director, Henrik Kristensen, told the Gothenburg Post that strikes and a new blockade by the Dockworkers Union had resulted in a 5% decline in the terminal’s traffic over the course of 2016.

The labour dispute, which centres around union calls for a separate collective bargaining agreement from the one in force throughout Sweden, appeared to be calming when the union called off its blockade in December, only for it to re-introduced at the start of the year.

A statement by APM Terminals described the labour action as “completely unreasonable” for both port and customers, adding that it would immediately start to negotiate for increased flexibility at the terminal.

It asked customers to support its control of cargo flows by only delivering export cargo two days prior to departure.

“Despite ongoing dialogue and already planned discussions with the Dockworkers Union, APM Terminals received new notice of industrial action,” said the port.

“APM Terminals will continue to seek dialogue and discussions with the Dockworkers Union to reach a solution; we are even in close contact with the Swedish Ports Association and the Swedish National Mediation Institute.

“APM Terminals find it very regrettable that the dialogue takes place under ongoing industrial action, and a further escalation is made during ongoing dialogue.”

A strike is planned for Tuesday 24 January between noon and 8pm, while the blockade is due to last until 28 February.

Under the action, union members are unable to accept overtime or recruitment from the terminal, while the hiring of hourly paid evening and night workers has also been prevented.

The effects of the ban and continuing strikes have been compounded by the bad weather, holding back all port activities.

More than half of Sweden’s container traffic passes through Gothenburg, with the port also capable of handling the largest ships. A 25-year agreement with APM Terminals was reached in 2011, however, since then the port has recorded back-to-back volume declines: 825,000 teu handled in 2015 compared with 925,000 teu in 2012.

Meanwhile the rival Polish port handled around 1.3m teu in 2016, a record not just for the terminal but for Polish containerisation, with the previous high of 1.06m teu eclipsed by October.

Gdansk says growing demand from Eastern and Central European markets was a key driver of its positive performance in a year during which it completed a second deepwater berth that doubled annual handling capacity to 3m teu.

Newly appointed chief executive Cameron Thorpe, who replaced the retiring Maciek Kwiatkowski, said the opening of Terminal 2 had been a game-changer for the Baltic.

He added: “It opens the market to direct calls from Asia and provides access for Polish importers and exporters, as well as enhanced transhipment access across the Baltic for the shipping lines.

“Our challenge now is to attract new services and to push further into Central Europe, while retaining and consolidating our position with our existing customers.”

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