Strikes over fuel prices tighten squeeze on supply chains

10 November 2021

Transport strikes around Asia – largely in protest at high fuel prices – are putting further pressure on already constricted supply chains.

In Bangladesh, truckers went on strike on 5 November after the government raised diesel prices by 23%, according to the country's Truck, Covered Van and Lorry Prime Movers Owners and Workers Coordinating Council. The truckers called off the strike after it stretched into the fourth day following talks with the government.

Bangladeshi newspapers reported that imported raw materials had become stuck at Chittagong port after around 5,000 trucks that normally transport imported goods from the seaport halted operations.

German shipping firm Hapag-Lloyd said the strike had restricted inter-district cargo movement and port operations and could lead to delays.

The company said it could take two weeks to stabilise cargo and space requirements and the number of vessels waiting at anchor could increase, which, in turn, could cause knock-on disruption.

Earlier in November, truckers in Indonesia's South Kalimantan held a one-day strike to protest at diesel shortages and smuggling at fuel stations. Security firm GardaWorld said the protests could cause a shipping backlog at the port of Trisakti.

Asia is seeing the results of higher global fuel prices and shortages as China – a major regional fuel refiner – cuts exports to safeguard local supply.

David Wech, chief economist at energy shipping analysis firm Vortexa, told the Straits Times: “Diesel prices have skyrocketed this year, and countries like Indonesia and Bangladesh that typically import diesel are reeling from the financial costs of subsidising the fuel while import costs have been rising, which is unsustainable.

Meanwhile, South Korea's foreign ministry said it had secured enough urea – which is used to cut emissions in diesel vehicles and factories – to ensure operations are unaffected after three months of acute shortages.

Urea shortages were also caused by China withholding exports. South Korea is now waiting for Beijing to relax customs controls that prevented urea being exported after the foreign ministry said it had struck a deal with the Chinese government.

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