Lock guards on strike: Over 200 waiting ships spread across waterways

More than 200 vessels are still waiting on Flemish inland waterways because of the union strikes, Flemish Waterways reported on Friday morning. On Friday afternoon, the unions are invited to another meeting with the Flemish minister for Public Administration, Gwendolyn Rutten (Open VLD), to resolve the situation.

The traffic control centre in Zeebrugge resumed operations on Friday morning. The Maritime Service Agency (MDK) confirmed that shipping had made some progress overnight after the strikes of the past few days.

There are still delays throughout the chain

"There are still delays throughout the chain," said MDK spokesman Peter Van Camp. "The piloting of ships to and from the ports, from Oostende, is going smoothly. But the boatmen who transport the pilots to the ships are still working at half capacity in Vlissingen and Oostende".

On Thursday morning, 59 vessels were waiting at Belgian anchorages and 38 vessels at Dutch anchorages for the Westerschelde. The port of Antwerp reported that eight inbound and four outbound vessels were currently stranded in the Antwerp port area. In Zeebrugge, six inbound and two outbound vessels are reported to be awaiting clearance.

Many vessels are also waiting around Bruges, near the Kruispoort Central between Ghent and Oostende. The Zennegat Central near Leuven is also closed. Meanwhile, the Albert Canal traffic control centre in Wijnegem has reopened, although there is still a blockade further down the canal. Problems in Bocholt, Herentals and Willebroek have also not been resolved.

Reform civil service statute

The disruption of water transport in Flanders is due to the action over the reform of the Flemish civil service statute, which has led to strikes by Flemish lock guards since Monday morning. Despite an agreement between minister Rutten and ACV on Tuesday evening, the actions of ACOD and VSOA continue.

"If the unions are ready to talk, I am certainly ready to listen. Dialogue always works better than protest," said Rutten. She also mentioned that the unions would be welcome in her office on Friday afternoon "if the two protesting unions are willing to suspend their remaining actions".


#FlandersNewsService | © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

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