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Important Shipping Update

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Maritime Union Announces Extensive Strikes at Patricks Terminals

The Maritime Union of Australia has issued 40 notices of industrial action for Patrick’s Melbourne terminal. They include 12 hours of work stoppages every Monday, Wednesday and Friday throughout October.

In a media release, Patrick the union was launching an “aggressive round of nationwide strikes during the peak pre-Christmas freight period”. Patrick said in a notice to customers that the Melbourne terminal would be impacted by significant delays due to the industrial action. Patrick said it is attempting to support other stevedores with restricted operations due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Last week Victoria International Container Terminal shut down twice after cases of COVID-19 were detected in the workforce. The union has also announced work stoppages at Port Botany. Union workers will down-tools for a total of 48 hours over Saturday and Sunday 2 and 3 October. Patrick said these stoppages would extend delays at the terminal to up to two days.

At Fremantle, the union undertook a similar work-stoppage this past weekend, commencing at 2300 on Friday 24 September. Also at Fremantle, the union issued a ban on the performance of work on the vessel Swan River Bridge on Saturday and Sunday 18 and 19 September. This followed a 24-hour work stoppage on Friday 10 September at the WA port. Patrick CEO Michael Jovicic said the MUA is clearly embarking on a “major pre-Christmas industrial campaign”. “For more than a year, we have been dealing with overtime and other bans at ports around the country. Last week they announced strike action at Port Botany commencing next Friday,” he said.

“Then late on Friday, the MUA hit Patrick with forty notices of industrial action in Melbourne in addition to industrial action and stoppages at our other terminals in Sydney, Fremantle and Brisbane. This means there will be continuous rolling industrial action in Patrick Terminal’s Melbourne container terminal with strikes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday of October and impacts across all other days of the month.” Mr Jovicic said the union’s actions are “bewildering”. “Over 40% of all container freight in Australia comes through Patrick terminals and the impact of this selfish industrial action will have ramifications for all Australians.

Brexit Causes UK Trucking & Fuel Crisis

British energy firms are rationing supplies of petrol and closing some fuel pumps, the latest in a string of shortages that have seen fast food giants reduce menu options and gaps appear on supermarket shelves. A big factor behind the problems is a lack of truck drivers. The UK is short tens of thousands of long-distance drivers, as factors including Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic converge to create a supply-chain crunch. Officials urged motorists not to panic-buy petrol after BP and Esso shut a handful of stations because there were not enough trucks to get petrol to the pumps.

“The advice would be to carry on as normal,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Friday. Despite the plea, lines of cars formed at some petrol stations across the UK as drivers filled up, just in case. As concern over the disruption mounts, the haulage industry is pressing the government to loosen immigration rules and recruit more drivers from Europe to avert Christmas shortages of turkeys and toys. The government is resisting that move, and scrambling to lure more British people into truck driving, long viewed as an underpaid and under-appreciated job.

Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU) — aka Brexit — prompted some European workers to head home. The British government also closed a loophole that many drivers used to keep tax payments down. Then COVID-19 lockdowns halted testing for months, stopping the flow of new drivers.

Countries including the US and Germany are also facing driver shortages. However, the UK’s problem has been worsened by Brexit. Britain’s full departure from the EU last year ended the right of the bloc’s citizens to live and work in the UK, making it harder for firms to employ eastern European drivers that many had come to rely on. The pandemic also disrupted labour markets around the world, throwing millions of people, at least temporarily, out of work.

An estimated 1.4 million Europeans left Britain for their home countries during the pandemic, often to be closer to family. It’s uncertain how many will return. Britain’s trucking industry is lobbying for truck drivers to be added to the “shortage occupation list”, which would make it easier to recruit drivers from Europe and hopefully help to ease the current shortage being faced.

Timber Pallet Shortages in Australia

Due to unprecedented levels of warehouse storage and use of timber pallets in the industry as a whole in Australia, in addition to COVID related matters, major pallet suppliers, CHEP and Loscam have been unable to supply pallets on a regular basis, which has left warehousing supply chains vulnerable and exposed.

Whilst many warehouses have tried to maximise the opportunity of exchanging pallets with customers, It is clearly evident that exchanging pallets from Customers is a very small percentage on the actual volume of pallets required by the warehousing industry, and the lack of pallet issue / despatch from CHEP and Loscam has created an industry crisis never experienced before.

NSW seems to be hit the hardest with many big depots now resorting to linehaul B-Double truck loads of timber pallets from other states at a significant cost in order to keep the warehousing supply chains moving.

Chep and Loscam are both working to increase the supply as warehouses look to keep their stock levels up. Some warehouses have announced potential surcharges to come for the supply of timber pallets until the situation improves. More updates to follow.  

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