ECONOMY

Dock workers’ go-slow starts hitting hard

Dockworkers’ continued abstention from overtime work is having a serious impact on the country’s external and domestic trade, with productivity at the port of Piraeus estimated to have dropped to about 25 percent of normal levels. Of a total of 36 cranes normally serving the port’s container terminal, less than half remain in operation, while in the last 10 days more than 15 large-capacity vessels that make regular journeys to and from the US and China have taken Piraeus off their routes. For that particular type of vessel, the cost of a 24-hour delay is estimated at $35,000. Already dozens of vessels have unloaded cargo destined for Greece at ports in Romania, Egypt, Italy and Malta. «Ships cannot wait in Piraeus for days to unload. The cost is huge,» said one shipping agent. Problems are equally serious for smaller vessels that sail within the Mediterranean. «Due to the delays, ships have time just to either load or unload. The process is particularly time-consuming, is not completed smoothly and, as a result, thousands of containers stay out of the market,» said Nikos Arvanitis, president of the International Maritime Union. He claims that the situation is deteriorating at a exorbitant rate and even threatens Christmas trade. «A container ship with raw materials for a large textile industry has been waiting to be unloaded since last Wednesday. The receiving company cannot take delivery and its clients are canceling their orders. The danger for the smooth functioning of the market is now more than visible,» said customs specialist Panayiotis Andronikos. Others argue that the go-slow is damaging the port’s credibility and warn that if the situation is not resolved as soon as possible, big shipping operators will take Piraeus off their routes. On Sunday, dock workers decided to continue their industrial action until Friday and abstain from work altogether on the weekend, in protest at the government’s plans to privatize a number of port services on a concession basis. Workers’ representatives told Kathimerini that in the next few days contacts will begin with port users, as well as opposition parties, on the issue of privatization.