Hamburg Port and Strike Update

Jun 23, 2022Market Advisory

As cargo owners in North America are focused on the looming June 30th deadline between the PMA and ILWU, a more urgent situation has arisen in Germany. The labor union, Ver.di, announced that they will commence a strike action against German ports with effect from today.

In contrast to quadrennial (or every four year) negotiations for US longshoremen, Germany labor union Ver.di renegotiates every two years. This year, the Zentalverband Deutsche Seehafenbetriebe, or ZDS (Association of German Seaport Operators) offered an 11% increase and the union is seeking a 14% wage increase.

Current Port Conditions

The port of Hamburg stands inactive and empty during port strikes.

TOC Logistics’ Vice President, Jennifer Coulter-Lissman, and ProTrans Global’s Managing Director, Johannes Barthels, personally visited Hamburg seaport today. A usually bustling, energetic scene filled with arriving and departing trucks and cranes working ships laden with containers was instead eerily quiet, with less than ten cars in the parking lot, no crane activity and not an iota of activity at any terminal in the port.

There was just a lone sign greeting visitors at one of the main terminals serving North America. In English, it translates to, “Strike! No access for trucks.”

The Loadstar reported today that strikes were announced from 6 AM CET today through 6 AM CET tomorrow and are across labor unions representing not just maritime workers, but truckers and rail operators as well. The strike is affecting not just Hamburg, but the ports of Bremerhaven and Wilhelmshaven as well. 

Impacts of Ongoing Negotiations

It remains to be seen tomorrow morning whether or not the strike will continue for a longer time. The reading of the negotiations between the two sides feels acrimonious. There is no language that either side is willing to budge from their demands, with the union accusing employers of rescinding a more generous offer from earlier in the negotiations.

We’ve all grown accustomed to Marine Traffic’s view of vessels at anchor, and this look at German ports shows more than thirty waiting for berths. Any freeze of already constrained ocean traffic will force automakers and others to immediately pivot to air, seeking increasingly scarce main deck capacity at a time when the exemptions granted for passenger freighters (“phreighters”) to operate are being phased out at the end of July.

TOC Logistics and ProTrans are on the scene in Germany. We will continue to monitor and advise of changing conditions based on what is reported both in the local German press and what our sources at the carriers, truckers and others provide and permit us to share with our customers.


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