From Le Havre to Marseille, the Blocking of Ports Weighs on the French Economy

Finance General News
In front of the entrance to the headquarters of the Grand Maritime Port of Le Havre, demonstrators blocked activity on January 22, 2020 to protest against the pension reform.

CGT unionists opposed to the pension reform continue to block commercial ports. Some carriers claim state intervention.

The blocking of the commercial ports by trade unionists of the CGT opposed to the pension reform worries many actors of the port world and beyond, as in Havre where the action “dead port” was very followed still Wednesday 22nd January 2020.

Early in the morning, CGT demonstrators invaded the headquarters of the Grand Maritime Port of Le Havre and formed a “CGT” with office lights. “These coups, property damage and intimidation must stop,” said Baptiste Maurand, director-general of the port, on Twitter.

Read also: New “dead port” operation in Seine-Maritime: “serious consequences” for Haropa

Farther on in the industrial port area, several dozen demonstrators blocked access to the port in the morning by burning pallets, immobilizing several trucks.

According to Philippe Bonneau, secretary-general of Normandie OTRE (road haulier), Le Havre “is the port most affected” by the conflict.

“You have carriers who are literally dying, because 90% of road transport companies are very small and medium-sized businesses. They are in an impossible situation, there has never been such a long and hard social conflict!”

He calls for state intervention to unblock the ports and organize in the future a “minimum service” in order to avoid “a minority of individuals blocking the French economy”.

“We are not questioning the strikes but the blockages which will have a serious impact on the image of the port, the first container port in France, and employment. We are not going to allow ourselves to die slowly, “commented Léa Lassarat, president of the CCI Seine Estuaire, announcing actions” as of next week “.

CGT truckers block the entrance to industrial warehouses at the port of Le Havre on January 22, 2020.
CGT truckers block the entrance to industrial warehouses at the port of Le Havre on January 22, 2020. (© AFP / Lou BENOIST)

For Alain Adam, president of Medef Seine Estuaire, “25% of the stopovers (initially planned in Le Havre) were diverted to Antwerp in December, and between 30 to 40% are cancelled in January” and redirected to Antwerp or Rotterdam.

Between the dockers and the tugs, “these are strikes one behind the other but which paralyze the traffic of goods” and which have “a downstream impact on all other activities”, added Mr Adam.

In a press release, Haropa (Le Havre, Rouen and Paris) thus mentions 227 delayed or cancelled stopovers since the start of the “Dead ports” operation and “calls on everyone to take collective responsibility so that the entire logistics chain port is quickly becoming operational again and the development efforts made in recent years are not called into question ”.

“Container race”

Elsewhere, like at the ports of Nantes / Saint-Nazaire and Marseille, where several accesses were still blocked on Wednesday, the situation is worrying.

The president of the Nantes / Saint-Nazaire CCI, Yann Trichard, estimates the losses linked to the “Dead ports” operations “at several million euros” and in Marseille the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) assesses these losses at almost 100 million euros.

On Wednesday, several entrances to these two ports were again blocked.

Read also: Saint-Nazaire: the port again blocked for three days

In Marseille, Pascal Galéoté, CGT general secretary of the Grand Maritime Port, says he is “aware” of the “economic impacts” but nevertheless considers that “this is the only way today to ensure that the government reverse its decision with this pension reform project ”.

Result of this mobilization: ” Less 40% of activity in Fos-Marseille, the estimated double in Le Havre, almost all of the ports of France are affected”, underlines in a press release the association France logistics.

And this while 75% of French foreign trade takes place by sea, recalls Armateurs de France.

Since the start of the strike, “we have not known where the ships will call, where the goods will arrive”, comments Camille Contamine, delegate for maritime affairs at TLF Overseas. “It’s a container race, we have to determine whether the ship will stop at a French port or unload elsewhere”.

Dunkirk has worked since the beginning of the movement, which has diverted a lot of flow but not all

The Shipowners of France fear the impact of the strike in the long term for the attractiveness of the ports of France. “A dissatisfied customer will be much more difficult to convince later,” said the professional organization.

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