Transportation Strike Impact at the Port of Le Havre
Jan. 22, 2020
On December 5, 2019, unions in France began to protest against broad changes to France’s pension system proposed by President Emmanuel Macron. The strikes continued for six weeks, the longest transportation strike in France. During the strikes, were your shipments impacted?
To review the impact of the dockworkers’ strike on port operations, CargoSmart analyzed vessel arrivals at France’s largest container port, Port of Le Havre. We reviewed monthly vessel data from January to December 2019, and weekly data from November 24, 2019 to January 11, 2020.
Le Havre Had Fewest Vessel Arrivals in December
As shown in Figure 1, December had the fewest vessel arrivals of the year. The total number of vessel arrivals in December was 169, which was 21 percent lower than the average of the first 11 months of the year. The data clearly reflects that port performance was negatively impacted by the strikes.
In addition to vessel arrivals, we reviewed the total number of vessels waiting before berthing. Using geo-fencing, we defined the area outside of the berth area where vessels waited for their berth window. We then determined the vessel waiting start and end times in the defined waiting area from Automatic Identification System (AIS) data.
We expected the number of waiting vessels to increase when the dockworkers went on strike. We found that while the number of vessel arrivals decreased in December, the number of vessels having to wait increased. The ratio of arriving vessels that had to wait was relatively higher in December than the average ration of waiting vessels during the first 11 months of the year.
Figure 1. Vessel Arrivals and Waiting Vessels by Month
Weekly Vessel Arrivals Dropped Starting in December
Next, we took a closer look at the vessel arrivals and waiting times by week in Le Havre, as shown in Figure 2. We found a decreasing trend in the number of vessel arrivals from weeks 48 to 52. Vessels likely began to skip the Port of Le Havre due to the port congestion. In the first week of January, vessel arrivals increased slightly, and then decreased again in the second week.
In the early stage of the dockworkers' strike, the ratio of waiting vessels to vessel arrivals was high. Vessels needed to wait in a long queue before berthing, but the situation improved in early January. As carriers and vessel operators likely adjusted vessel schedules either by skipping the port or rearranging the port call sequence to minimize waiting time, the ratio of the number of waiting vessels to vessel arrivals decreased.
Figure 2. Vessel Arrivals and Waiting Vessels by Week
In conclusion, the 2019 French pension reform plan strike was a major factor that affected French port operations. Fewer vessels berthed at French ports in December and January, and the ratio of waiting vessels to vessel arrivals increased with the industrial action. The situation improved in January due to carriers and vessels operators rearranging their schedules.