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Tug dispute obstructing Amsterdam shipping

Shipping in Amsterdam has again sustained serious delays, as Svitzer harbour tugs remained moored on Good Friday oernight following the fourth stoppage over a pay dispute in the past weeks

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Tug dispute obstructing Amsterdam shipping

Svitzer, an A P Møller-Maersk subsidiary, operates six tugs in the Amsterdam and North Sea Canal port area, half of the local major harbour towage fleet. Iskes, Svitser’s partner, also operates six tugs in their joint PTA pool. Svitzer’s seventh Dutch tug is stationed in Rotterdam.


The effects of the Svitzer stoppages are aggravated because the IJmuiden locks are shut for maintenance on workdays between 06.00 and 18.00 hours until 10th May. This entails a deepsea ships’ backlog - both in and out - after 18.00 hours, which cannot be absorbed by the six Iskes tugs alone. Also, not all tugs will be operational simultaneously because of crews’ rosters.

The Port of Amsterdam looking west, towards IJmuiden and the North Sea. (Photo: Port of Amsterdam)
The Port of Amsterdam looking west, towards IJmuiden and the North Sea. (Photo: Port of Amsterdam)

The Svitzer labour dispute pivots around a new collective labour agreement (CLA). The 63 tugboat crew members are seeking to make up concessions they made to help Svitzer survive its then serious business problems in 2014.


The trade unions FNV Havens and Nautilus International are jointly addressing this dispute. They claim that the crews have since 2014 worked an average extra 8.5 hours per week without pay, to help Svitzer overcome the crisis.


Over the past five years, Svitzer has saved itself one full year’s wages per employee, thanks to these concessions, it is stated. Now that business is considerably better, the crews again seek a return to being paid over the actual number of hours worked. Despite the workers’ offer to cushion the wage repairs by spreading the bridging of this gap over "a number of years," the company is still ignoring the demands, according to the two unions’ negotiators.

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