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Port Hedland Engineers Join Tugboat Workers in Approving Strikes

Engineers at Australia’s Port Hedland joined tugboat officers and deckhands in approving work stoppages, risking disruptions at the world’s biggest bulk export terminal that may cost suppliers $94 million a day.

The Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers approved stoppages ranging from 4 hours to 48 hours, the Fair Work Commission said on its website today. The action is against Teekay Shipping (Australia) Pty., which is contracted by BHP Billiton Ltd. to run tugboat operations in Port Hedland, located about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) north of Perth.

Strikes by workers over annual leave and wages may slow iron ore exports by companies including Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. and BHP, which has estimated that disruption may cost suppliers about A$100 million a day. Iron ore shipments through Port Hedland climbed to a record in May as mining companies boosted output. Prices fell to the lowest since 2012 last month amid forecasts for a widening global seaborne surplus.

“We’re waiting to see how talks go,” said Andrew Williamson, senior national organizer for the engineers. The union meets Teekay tomorrow in Sydney, he said by phone today.

The Australian Maritime Officers Union approved unlimited stoppages ranging from 2 hours to 72 hours, the Fair Work Commission said May 30. The Maritime Union of Australia approved stoppages of 24 hours, 48 hours and seven days, the Commission said May 12. The union, which represents deckhands, said May 22 that it will suspend taking strike action for 30 days to seek a settlement after productive talks.

The Maritime Union of Australia will meet with Teekay again on June 12 and the Fair Work Commission on July 3 after constructive discussions, it said June 5.

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