Swedish dockworkers call off Russian ships blockade, may reinstate it

The Swedish Dockworkers Union (SDU) is calling off the blockade on Russian ships, some of which were carrying pig iron and aluminum, to avoid conflict with port authorities contesting its legitimacy, but intends to reinstate it before the end of May, a union official told S&P Global Commodity Insights May 13.

SDU has been blocking Russian ships, ships with Russian goods and generally ships on their way to or from Russia since March 28 in sympathy with Ukrainian dockworkers, and trade union activists.

A month later, the employers’ organization Ports of Sweden (Sveriges Hamnar) filed suit with the labor court to request the blockade be lifted and to claim damages, according to the information on the SDU website.

“Our blockade was meant to finish at the end of May, but we agreed to shorten it in exchange for the plaintiff dropping the lawsuit,” SDU vice president Erik Helgeson said.

The union intends to give notice of another blockade of Russian ships in the week of May 16, which should then come into force before the end of May.

Its fellow association, the Swedish Transport Workers’ Union, had initiated its own blockade on May 1 and no longer assists shipments to or from Russia, but before it started, a few ships had managed to pass through as the dockworkers’ union does not have members in every port.

Those ships carried mostly oil and metals, predominantly pig iron and aluminum, according to Helgeson.

The blockades are meant to compensate for the lack of initiative from the Swedish government to cease all seaborne commercial exchanges with Russia, he said.

There are over 40 active ports in Sweden, most of which respected the blockade, but about half a dozen continued servicing Russian ships or those of their intermediaries.

These ships constitute only a small share of Sweden’s seaborne trade, but some Swedish companies still prefer to buy certain raw materials in Russia, including pig iron and aluminum, because of their low price. For them, the issue is not in substituting with commodities from different regions, but with commodities at similarly cheap prices, according to Helgeson.

The LME aluminum cash settlement rose $35 to $2,723/mt May 13, having lost $50 May 12. S&P Global assessed pig iron at $565 FOB Black Sea on May 13, down $62.50 from May 5.

— Ekaterina Bouckley