Bahrain Petroleum strike could cause major disruptions

21 March 2011

Industrial sector as yet unaffected, but shortage of petroleum products is a worry

Strikes at a refinery operated by the state-owned Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco) could cause major disruptions to the kingdom’s economy over the next few days due to a lack of petroleum products.

The refinery has been reported to be working at 10 per cent of its total capacity of 250,000 barrels a day as Bapco employees walked out as part of a general strike organised by the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFTBU).

Bahrain’s industrial sector has reported no major shutdowns at any of its major plants, despite reports that up to 70 per cent of Bahrainis are now on strike. However, it is not yet known how a lack of petroleum products could affect operations of all Bahrain’s major factories.

“We have made an agreement to continue operations with our union, but we may yet be affected if certain petroleum products cannot be a supplied,” a senior official from a metals company says.   

A spokesman for Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) says that no production has been lost at its 870,000 tonne-a-year smelter, despite the threat of strike action. In a statement, Alba said shipping was disrupted for several days due to freight restrictions at the Khalifa bin Salman Port.

“There was some disruptions at the port but it started full operations again yesterday [20 March],” says the spokesman. “We are confident that we will be able to clear the backlog within a few days.”

The metals park situated around the Alba smelter including Midal Cables and the Gulf Aluminium Rolling Mill Company (Garmco) have also reported that there have been no stoppages due to strikes or disturbances in central Manama.

Construction projects in Manama did experience some disruptions last week when the demonstrations were at their most unruly, but sources now indicate that workers have returned to site.

“We stopped work for a few days only, and we are working again today,” said an international contractor working in Bahrain on 20 March.

The GFBTU has called for continued large-scale strike action if government forces continue commit violent acts against protesters.


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