According¬†to the FT, industrial action by 14 harbour pilots at Milford Haven later this week could seriously disrupt supplies of oil and gas to the UK. The port includes Exxon’s RBS-financed South Hook LNG Terminal which imports gas from Qatar.

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Port strike risks oil and gas disruption

By Jonathan Guthrie

Published: February 16 2010 02:00 | Last updated: February 16 2010 02:00

The Milford Haven Port Authority is expected to seek a legal injunction today to avert the strike over pensions and will also hold last-ditch talks with the Unite union.

About 25 per cent of the UK’s petrol and diesel is supplied from Milford Haven in west Wales, one of the largest natural deep water anchorages in the world, according to the MHPA.

The port also handles a growing amount of liquefied natural gas, seen as a key energy source by the government. South Hook, one of two LNG terminals at Milford Haven, handled 7 per cent of the UK’s gas supply during the recent cold snap.

The MHPA said it had received formal notification from Unite that workers including harbour pilots would withdraw their labour on Thursday and Friday, after which they would work to rule. The pilots are understood to receive salaries of up to six figures a year for the demanding and dangerous job of clambering aboard huge vessels and bringing them safely into port. Without them, oil, petrol and LNG tankers would be unable to unload, the port said.

The dispute has been triggered by the decision of the MHPA to reduce the pension benefits accrued by its staff. The authority argues that its final salary scheme is burdened with a large and growing pension deficit. Unite was not in a position to comment on the dispute yesterday afternoon.

A strike may not raise energy prices significantly. Energy companies store large quantities of oil and gas for processing and to even out peaks and troughs in supply and demand.