Harbour strike ends

The nation's ports are back in business after Danish longshoremen return to work

While longshoremen in other European ports continue to strike over proposed EU regulations that would increase competition in ship loading and unloading, Denmark's longshoremen resumed work on Tuesday, reported national broadcaster DR.

In all, 1300 Danish longshoremen were on strike against the proposal on Tuesday. They fear it would undermine their jobs by allowing ship crews to load and unload their own cargoes.

Port operators were unable to put a price tag on how much they had lost because of the strike. But according to Tom E. Christensen of Danish Ports, a national association of 60 ports and harbours, the price to unload a large cargo ship can run up to DKK 300,000.

Christiansen also pointed out that 75 percent of Denmark's exports and imports went through the country's ports. He was worried that each time shipping traffic was disrupted by strikes, transporters were more likely to look towards overland routes.

'Copenhagen and Malmö ports, for example, have just built up a distribution centre for new cars, and that will be hard hit, if the transport situation is uncertain,' Christensen said to financial daily Børsen.

Such a development runs contrary to EU efforts to move cargo traffic off of the union's crowded motorways and onto the seaways.

The proposal is to begin liberalisation of cargo handling in ports is be voted on in the European Parliament tomorrow. It is not expected to gain a majority. Danish MEPs were split in their support.

While Danish Liberal Party MEPs saw the proposal as a way to increase efficiency, social democratic MEP Dan Jørgensen said the proposal was unfair to longshoremen.

'We're more than happy to increase competition in ports, but only if the regulations are fair and acceptable. They wouldn't be under the current proposal,' Jørgensen said.

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