EU short-sea op­er­a­tors op­pose ITF’S cargo-lash­ing clause

The Punch - - MARITIME -

eUROPEAN short-sea and feeder ship op­er­a­tors say that they are chal­leng­ing ef­forts by the in­ter­na­tional Trans­port Work­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion to re­de­fine con­tainer lash­ing as a cargo han­dling ac­tiv­ity in or­der to bring it un­der the con­trol of unionised dock­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to the Mar­itime Ex­ec­u­tive, the re­def­i­ni­tion, which ITF has sought for many years, will mean that the union’s shore-based work­ers un­der­take ship­board con­tainer lash­ing un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the ship’s master. This has pre­vi­ously been a duty per­formed by the crew. The change takes ef­fect on Wed­nes­day for all in­ter­na­tional Mar­itime employment Coun­cil crew­ing agents.

Six european short-sea and feeder lines, all op­er­at­ing ships of un­der 560 feet in length, say that the change is legally un­en­force­able, re­stricts com­pe­ti­tion for lash­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, will bring ex­tra costs and de­lays in cargo op­er­a­tions, and could per­suade ship­pers to switch to road trans­port.

ITF claims that lash­ing done by dock­ers is safer, an as­ser­tion that the lines’ con­test.

“Fully trained ship crews at many european ports rou­tinely un­der­take con­tainer lash­ing, work­ing within strict safety guide­lines,” said Pa­trick van de Ven, found­ing part­ner of Ven­turn, a mar­itime and lo­gis­tics con­sul­tancy firm based in Rot­ter­dam. “They are fa­mil­iar with the ship and its Cargo Se­cur­ing Man­u­als, and have a vested in­ter­est in en­sur­ing that cargo is safely se­cured on the ves­sel they live on.”

The amended “Dock­ers’ Clause” is the re­sult of a five-year ITF cam­paign on “re­claim­ing lash­ing for dock­work­ers” which be­came part of a re­cent in­ter­na­tional Bar­gain­ing Fo­rum agree­ment be­tween an in­ter­na­tional Mar­itime employment Coun­cil ne­go­ti­at­ing group and the ITF. The Dock­ers’ Clause ap­plies to imecmem­ber crew­ing agents which be­gan on Jan­uary 1, 2020.

The owner group be­lieves that short-sea and feeder views were not fully rep­re­sented by ne­go­tia­tors and has sought ad­vice to chal­lenge the le­gal­ity of the amended Dock­ers’ Clause un­der eu law. While agree­ments made by imec are of­ten adopted more widely, em­ploy­ers and crew­ing agen­cies are fully en­ti­tled to op­er­ate out­side their terms.

Ac­cord­ing to the text of the new “Dock­ers’ Clause,” if dock­ers aren’t avail­able to lash con­tain­ers, the ITF will still re­quire crew­ing agen­cies to seek the per­mis­sion of dock unions to do the work and prove that in­di­vid­ual sea­far­ers have vol­un­teered. Given that ITF is not seek­ing to stop sea­far­ers lash­ing con­tain­ers al­to­gether but only to be first in the queue when lash­ing jobs come up, short-sea and feeder ship in­ter­ests have come to view the cam­paign as about job cre­ation for dock work­ers rather than safety.

The change also raises ques­tions about com­pe­ti­tion, Ven­turn says. Ac­cord­ing to the con­sul­tancy, the pro­posed change would have the ef­fect of cre­at­ing a lash­ing com­pany monopoly in Rot­ter­dam, even though europe’s largest con­tainer port op­er­ates un­der a lo­cal har­bour decree (Sjorveror­den­ing) al­low­ing lash­ing by crews.

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