French Oil Refineries Prepare for Restart But Oil Ports Still Shut

A striking French CGT labour union employee stands near a burning barricade during a police operation to free up a fuel depot near the Donges oil refinery as workers protest the labour reforms law proposal in Donges, France, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
A striking French CGT labour union employee stands near a burning barricade during a police operation to free up a fuel depot near the Donges oil refinery as workers protest the labour reforms law proposal in Donges, France, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

ReutersPARIS, June 6 (Reuters) – Preliminary work got underway on Monday to restart three of Total’s French oil refineries stopped as part of nationwide strikes against planned changes to employment laws, but workers were still on strike at the country’s two main oil ports.

Workers voted to end a strike at Grandpuits near Paris and preliminary work on resuming operations was underway there and at the Normandy refinery, as well as at the Feyzin refinery in the southern Rhone region, a Total spokesman said.

Total operates five of the country’s eight refineries.

The Donges refinery on France’s western coast was still blocked by about 30 members of the hardline CGT union, which is leading the campaign of stoppages and protests in the rail and energy sectors against the government’s labour reforms.

Workers were voting on Tuesday on whether to go back to work at Feyzin, Total’s spokesman said, while La Mede refinery was still working and also ensuring outbound deliveries.

Oil terminals were still blocked, however.

At CIM, an oil storage and supply services company which handles about 40 percent of French crude imports, workers have voted to extend their strike at Le Havre port until 1000 GMT on Wednesday, a CGT union official told Reuters.

“Some 80 percent of the workers approved extending the strike,” a union representative said.

Le Havre is France’s second-biggest oil port and the action by workers has disrupted the delivery of crude to refineries and products through the Trapil pipeline.

Seventeen managers and engineers, instead of the usual 38 workers, have been operating the plant for more than a week after the government ordered pipes to be re-opened to allow supplies to flow.

They were performing pumping activities to supply Exxon Mobil’s Port Jerome refinery as well as airports, the union official said.

Meanwhile the Fos Lavera oil terminals in southern France remained idle on Monday but the port was functioning for gas and other goods, a port spokeswoman said.

“There’s no commercial activity at the oil terminals – no loading and no offloading,” she said.

Some 25 ships were waiting in the harbour and 15 at quay, carrying crude oil, natural gas or refined products, an official of Fluxel, which manages the oil terminal, said.

The situation has barely changed over the past 10 days. Other cargoes were diverted to other ports.

In addition, CGT called in a statement on Monday for port and dock workers to strike again on Thursday, June 9, and to join the nationwide strike planned for June 14, which could disrupt shipments of grain and other cargoes through the ports. (Reporting by Bate Felix and Valerie Parent; Writing by Brian Love and Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by William Hardy, Greg Mahlich)

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