Port strike threatens to paralyse refineries

30th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLE, France, March 30, 2007 (AFP) - A 17-day strike by workers at the French port of Marseille could force some refineries in France, Germany and Switerland to halt production as of Monday, an oil trade organisation said.

MARSEILLE, France, March 30, 2007 (AFP) - A 17-day strike by workers at the French port of Marseille could force some refineries in France, Germany and Switerland to halt production as of Monday, an oil trade organisation said.

The French Union of Petroleum Industries (UFIP) said Friday that the holdup at Europe's second-largest oil terminal was costing tanker operators between 15,000 and 50,000 euros (19,980 and 66,614 dollars) a day.

Half of France's 12 refineries dependent on supplies from the Fos terminal at Marseille "could grind to a halt as of Monday" along with facilities in Cressier, Switzerland and Karlsruhe, Germany, said Jean-Francois Cousinie, of UFIP.

A total of 64 ships, including 34 oil tankers, remained blocked outside the Mediterrenean port, but five other tankers were allowed to anchor in Marseille on Friday due to safety concerns, according to port authorities.

Management and labor were to due to meet later in the day to try to resolve the dispute after 10 hours of talks on Thursday ended with no breakthrough.

Dockers launched the strike on March 14 to protest plans to recruit workers at a new terminal from French gas utility GDF. The GDF 2 terminal at Fos-sur-Mer is due to come on line in 2008.

GDF argues that for safety reasons it will employ only its own staff.

The UFIP has warned that consumers could be hit by fuel shortages at the start of April, causing disruptions just three weeks ahead of the French presidential election.

Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen on Thursday lamented that government was "powerless" to stop the strike at the Marseille port, which he described as "illegal and illegitimate."

The National Front leader said the strike had been launched by a "handful of communist unionists" whose demands over the GDF port were unjustified as the port had no authority over the new facility.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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