Industrial action taken by dock workers at the Port of Pireaus, which has hampered throughput at the port since the beginning of 2008, including automotive shipments, has finally been called off and normal service is now expected to resume.
In opposition to the port authority’s move to find a private operator to run its new container terminal, unions representing the dockers placed a ban on overtime and weekend working in January last year. The action also included wildcat 24-hour walkouts and slowdowns.
Despite the port authority subsequently awarding the contract for Pier II and the construction of Pier III to Chinese operator Cosco Pacific, unions have now suspended the ban on overtime and weekend working.
The port authority is receiving a €50m ($66m) down payment as part of the concession agreement but has lost 50% of its revenue in 2008 as a result of the action, including having been forced to provide significant discounts for customers whose cargo has undergone prolonged storage at the port.
During 2008 transhipment to other ports including Koper, Barcelona and Gioia Tauro were used for cargo that Piraeus normally handles, although some shipping companies maintained business with the port. Nikolaos Papanastasiou, Commercial Manager for the Mediterranean and Black Sea Area, at United European Car Carriers (UECC) said the company was able to continue operations at Piraeus, though not without certain challenges.
He told Automotive Logistics: “During the strike UECC did not operate from alternative ports but had to plan operations efficiently, being sure to secure the arrival of our vessels at Piraeus before the weekends.
“We have to admit that we experienced pressing situations and competition from other vessels to secure available berth and labour when approaching Piraeus close to the weekend, but we managed to secure regular activity for inbound and outbound cargoes.”
Mr Papanastasiou went on to say that the announcement from Piraeus Port Authority “came as a relief”.
UECC is further developing regular services from the north of Europe to Piraeus and from Piraeus into the Black Sea for automotive and high-and-heavy customers.
The car terminal at the port was the tenth largest in Europe in 2007, handling 618,000 new cars, but this fell to 555,000 in 2008 following the industrial strike action and declining sales in the latter part of the year.