VW T-Roc units awaiting export at LeixõesStrikes at the Portuguese port of Setúbal that are expected to continue into January have forced Volkswagen to switch exports of its T-Roc SUV, made at the Autoeuropa plant in Palmela, to the northern port of Leixões.

According to the ports administration of Douro, Leixões and Viana do Castelo (APDL), the first shipment left the port on November 30, having been transported there by road from the plant four days earlier. The shipment consisted of 700 cars, just more than a week’s output of that model from the plant. Autoeuropa also makes the VW Sharan and Seat Alhambra.

The cars are being moved through terminal operator TCGL’s general and bulk cargo terminal at Leixões. TCGL is Portugal’s main ro-ro operator and posted growth of 18% in 2017, with the equivalent of 1m tonnes of traffic.

The port of Leixões is investing to support increased automotive traffic and has plans install parking spaces for up to 5,000 units by the end of the year. The port has previously handled finished vehicles but stopped doing so 12 years ago. After the first new shipment had left the port, APDL suggested the success of the operation showed that Leixões was “prepared to be part of the solution and to respond to the needs of moving and exporting motor vehicles”.

The dispatch of cars from Setúbal has been experiencing disruption since mid-August, when an overtime dispute spiralled out of control. By the end of November, VW had been forced to cancel at least seven vessel calls for vehicles made at Autoeuropa.

Various alternatives have been considered by VW, including the ports of Vigo and Santander. In a statement, however, Autoeuropa said: “The only alternative to Setúbal is Setúbal. Other available solutions do not guarantee that the entire daily production [can be accommodated].”

Around 600 T-Roc units are currently built each week at the Palmela plant.

In a statement, Volkswagen said it regretted that “those involved in this process have not been able to find a solution to the precarious situation in the port of Setúbal.”