November 24 - Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS) has advised that port workers in Belgium began a 24-hour strike today, which will end at midnight today.

The strike by port labourers has been called by three national unions in protest over the erosion of index-linked pay rises and tax increases.

The strike is currently having a major effect on shipping operations in the area, with the ports of Zeebrugge, Ghent and Antwerp particularly badly affected.

ISS Belgium has advised that there is a backlog of 65 ships waiting at anchorage to call at the port of Antwerp, with a further 12 vessels waiting to depart.

"We regret that the strike, which is organised to protest against the austerity policy of our government, is affecting the port of Antwerp this much," commented the Belgian port's press officer, Annik Dirkx.

"The port companies, terminal operators and other port users informed their clients about the strike, so that everybody was able to take the necessary precautions to reduce the expected difficulties to a minimum"

It is also anticipated that this 24-hour strike will be followed by a national general strike on December 15, 2014.

The port of Antwerp confirmed that it would organise itself in the same way that it has today for the upcoming national strike.