Stevedoring ground to a halt yesterday at one of Europe's biggest commercial shipping companies following the second day of wildcat strike action over working hours by dockers in the Netherlands.
The International Herald Tribune reported that movement of containers at the European Container Terminals (ECT) — usually up to 70,000 per week — nearly came to a standstill because of the lack of workers, said the company's director, Jan Westerhout.
"We are trying to keep truck treatment alive, but there is hardly anybody at work," he said. "Throughput is almost frozen."
Westerhout said a proposal agreed with labour unions involved more flexible work times for the company's staff.
"They do not want to hear the word flexibility in the port of Rotterdam," Westerhout said. "That is apparently something deep in their genes."
Union officials who negotiated the proposal with the company have not approved the strike but say there is little they can do to bring it to an end.
Westerhout said he could not estimate losses at the company because of the strike, but added: "I am really very concerned about the reputation damage of the port of Rotterdam."
Rotterdam is Europe's largest port in terms of the number of containers handled each year and the seventh largest in the world. Singapore is the world's largest port by containers handled.
ECT, which employs just over 2,000 people, is part of Hong Kong-based Hutchinson Port Holdings.