Hong Kong April Port Volume Fell 12% as Strike Diverted Traffic

Hong Kong container throughput fell 12 percent in April from a year earlier as a 40-day strike at billionaire Li Ka-shing’s port operations diverted traffic and slowed business at Hongkong International Terminals Ltd.

The facility handled 1.734 million TEUs in last month, compared with 1.976 million TEUs in the same period last year, according to data from the Port Development Council. Throughput at the world’s third-largest container port declined 7.8 percent from the previous month as workers walked out on March 28, demanding higher wages.

The disruption forced shipping lines to divert vessels to nearby ports, including neighboring Shenzhen, southern China. The strike by about 450 dock workers, crane operators and stevedores was the biggest labor revolt against Asia’s richest man. Hutchison Port Holdings Trust, a unit of Li’s Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., dominates half of Hong Kong’s port capacity along with partner Cosco Pacific Ltd.

The April monthly volume is the lowest since November 2009, excluding February traffic, which is traditionally slower because of the Chinese New Year holiday. The Hong Kong economy contracted 2.5 percent for that year. Shenzhen’s container terminal throughput for April was 1.85 million TEUs, a drop of 0.5 percent on year, according to the Shenzhen Ports Association.

Hutchison Port was unchanged at 82 cents as of 1:40 p.m. in Singapore trading today. The stock has gained 3.8 percent this year, trailing the 8.6 percent climb of the Straits Times Index.

Striking workers last week accepted a 9.8 percent wage increase to end the dispute. Hongkong International operated about 90 percent of its normal capacity during the strike, according to a filing by parent Hutchison Port. The labor action may have cost the company HK$100 million ($13 million), according to Citigroup Inc.

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