Tugboat Strike Cripples Atlantic LNG Production

A strike by contracted tugboat workers at the Atlantic LNG plant in Trinidad has led Atlantic LNG to shut down trains 1 and 2, while train 3 is operating at "minimal levels," ALNG spokesperson Esther Le Gendre told BNamericas.

The strike has prevented the tugboats from bringing liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers to the jetty for loading with LNG from its three trains, which normally process 1.7 billion cubic feet of gas a day (bcf/d), Le Gendre said.

The tugboat workers have been on strike since Friday (Mar.5) in a wage dispute with their employer Plipwijs, which is a partnership of Point Lisas Industrial Port Development (Plipdeco) and Svitzer Wijsmuller. Plipwijs made an offer that the workers rejected Friday and Plipwijs is "working feverishly to resolve the situation," Le Gendre said.

The strike is costing Trinidad and Tobago's US$2mn a day in lost tax revenues, Le Gendre said.

The national oil field workers trade union is behind both the tugboat workers strike and a strike at the train 4 construction site "as a concerted effort by interested parties external to the company to create scenarios which would force the implementation of laws related to the increase of wages."

Trinidad and Tobago's cabinet is currently considering a minimum wage increase for energy sector construction workers and has referred the issue to a committee to study "all the implications of the proposal," Le Gendre said.

Bechtel's construction workers on train 4 currently make a minimum of $24.85 Trinidadian dollars an hour (US$4.04) and the new wage bill would increase that to $30.38/hr, Le Gendre said.

Business associations in Trinidad and Tobago, including the local and US chambers of commerce and the national manufacturers' and contractors' associations, oppose a minimum wage for the energy sector. Business groups "have counseled against [an energy sector minimum wage] and have recommended that market forces be allowed to determine wages above the national minimum," Le Gendre said.

About Business News Americas: Business News Americas is a multilingual news and business information service that covers the most important original stories in 11 different business sectors throughout Latin America everyday. Visit BNamericas to access our real-time news reports, 7-year archive, Fact File company database, and latest research reports.

Click here for a Free two week trial to our Latin America Oil & Gas information service.