Rolling strike delays oil shipping through Marseille port

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, June 14 -- A rolling strike, which already has halted oil shipping through the Port of Marseille, is set to continue for a further 5 days, according to officials of the state-run port administration.

Marseille, the world's third-largest oil port, after Rotterdam and Houston, receives about 40% of France's crude oil.

At the moment, 22 tankers are waiting to offload their cargoes at Marseille's Fos-Lavera terminals, Frances largest oil port.

But the ships could be delayed until June 18 due to a sequence of day-long strikes which, by then, will have brought the port to a halt for 7 consecutive days.

Officials issued a statement saying the port "regrets this decision, which risks durably compromising the future of the port, of its personnel, of the companies, of the 40,000 regional jobs that depend on its activity."

The delay follows an earlier one on June 6 when workers at Fos-Lavera extended the port blockage initiated on June 5. That time, the strike blocked a total of 21 oil tankers from entering the port or from being loaded or unloaded.

The current series of supply chain disruptions began on Mar. 26 when French port workers called a strike at state-owned ports to protest against government plans to privatize the loading activities of seven out of nine of the public ports: Marseille, Dunkirk, Le Havre, Rouen, Nantes Saint-Nazaire, La Rochelle, and Bordeaux.

At the time, the strike that blocked the Fos hydrocarbon terminal for more than 2 weeks, cost refineries in the area about €25 million (OGJ, Apr. 9, 2007, Newsletter).

Four refineries are in the Fos-Lavera hub including ExxonMobil Corp.'s 119,000 b/d Fos refinery, Ineos's 207,000 b/d Lavera refinery, Total SA's 158,000 b/d La Mede refinery, and Royal Dutch Shell PLC's 80,000 b/d Berre l'Etang refinery.

Other refineries, such as the 300,000 b/d Miro facility in Karlsruhe, Germany, are also served by the Fos-Lavera hub.

Last November, France's CGT workers union called for 4-hr strikes at ports across the country including Marseille, Saint-Nazaire, and Le Havre. That strike was called over pay and working conditions.

In December, 90% of workers at five refineries owned by Total went on strike to protest against a pay agreement signed in November between management and unions at the company.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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