Port Strike Hits Cross-Channel Traffic

Strikers angry about plans to privatize some heavy machine operations.

Long tailbacks of trucks built up on both sides of the Channel on May 22 as a strike against French port privatization plans severely disrupted ferry services, a day after a crippling fishermen's blockade. In Calais, three quarters of port staff in charge of mooring boats were on strike, with only one in four docking stations operating, according to officials.

The P&O ferry company said that two in five of its Dover-Calais services would operate May 22, reporting major tailbacks of trucks waiting for a crossing on both sides of the Channel. "There is serious disruption. It all adds up with the troubles from yesterday," said a company spokesman.

SeaFrance said it was forced to cancel five overnight ferries and that traffic remained severely disrupted.

Since April, France's major ports have been hit by a string of strikes by workers angry at plans to privatize some heavy machinery operations in line with dockers whose jobs went private in the 1990s. French ports have also faced two weeks of protests by fishermen who have blockaded oil depots, clashed with police and disrupted ferry traffic to demand compensation for rising fuel prices. Fishermen resumed a blockade of oil depots near France's largest port of Marseille on May 22 despite a government promise to immediately release 110 million euros (US$173 million) in aid for the sector.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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