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Brazil customs strike enters its eighth week

Shippers and carriers are experiencing delays of up to eight days in Brazil as customs workers legally boycott governmental changes to retirement age and other benefits, multiple media outlets have reported.

   A strike carried out by Brazil’s customs is entering its eight week, resulting in delays at ports and for truck drivers, especially at the Argentina and Uruguay borders, according to reports from multiple media outlets.
   According to reports, thousands of trucks are waiting three to eight days for authorization from the Brazilian Receita Federal (RF or customs office) at multiple border check points, while at ports, the strike has caused containers to miss their sailings, thus accumulating detention and demurrage fees.
   “Loads that are normally cleared in 24 hours accumulate in the terminals waiting for authorizations,” Jose Roque, the executive president for Sindamar, told the Shipping Gazette. “If this situation persists, terminals are expected to exhaust their physical capacity for storage shortly and all their spaces will be occupied due to lack of clearance, with ships leaving Santos without all scheduled loads, resulting in loss of revenue from maritime freight.”
   A spokesperson for the Brazilian Association of Fruit Producers and Exporters told the Journal of Commerce, “Our members are still experiencing delays of around three days, on average, and especially at the port of Santos and Guarulhos airport, where processing of documents and sanitary procedures seems to be particularly slow. We are lobbying the Ministry of Agriculture to try and bring the strike to an end. Lemons, limes and mango exporters are suffering the most in Brazil right now.”
   Cecafe, the Brazilian coffee exporters association, told JOC that delays of between four and eight days were reported in Santos. However, the impact of the RF strike so has been far less at Rio de Janeiro than at ports like Santos, said Marianne von Lachmann, the owner of shipping agents group Lachmann Agencias.
   “There has not been too much congestion in Rio de Janeiro due to the strike because the container terminals had been underutilized anyway in recent months, owing to the economic recession that has been particularly bad in Rio. With many terminals less than 60 percent occupied, there is still space, which is why they are offering discounts to customers,” said von Lachmann. “However, many shippers are still suffering extra costs for the extra storage emanating from the delays in inspections.”
   Earlier this year, the Brazilian government had promised to meet most of the wage demands, but then delayed the implementation due to federal budget constraints. The union then won permission by the Supreme Court to go on strike, which allows members to strike and draw full salary for up to 90 days, as long as 30 percent of union members are working to deal with emergency measures, reported JOC. Union leaders that represent RF workers say they will continue to strike until the government grants them a higher wage, as well as drops a plan to raise the retirement age and cut other benefits, according to reports.
Customs strikes in Brazil are not uncommon. American Shipper reported on strikes in the South American country in June 2012 and in September 2016, with additional strikes occurring in August 2015.