Friday, June 8, 2012

Cabotage and Piracy to Dominate Asia-Pacific Transport Union Meeting

ITF Committee Meets Next Week in Jakarta
Shipping News Feature

INDONESIA – WORLDWIDE - Piracy will be high on the agenda of the ITF’s (International Transport Workers’ Federation) 2012 Asia Pacific Seafarers and Fisheries committee. Seafarer trade unionists from across the Asia-Pacific region will meet in Jakarta from 11th – 14th June to discuss plans on piracy, cabotage, and improving standards for fisheries workers. Cabotage, the carriage of cargo between two internal points in one country by a carrier from another, usually from a less regulated and lower paid economy, has been a bone of contention within the freight industry for centuries. At times of economic hardship as work becomes harder to come by it has traditionally caused fierce arguments over territory between home and alien nations’ road haulage operators, airlines and shipping groups.

One of our recent articles demonstrated how the subject was high on the agenda in the region as unionists search for a general agreement to give their members some sort of security against foreign workers undercutting both price and safety standards whilst of course piracy is a topic that continues to dominate the headlines for one reason or another. ITF Seafarers and Fisheries Section Secretary Jon Whitlow commented:

“The ITF continues to work well with government and the maritime industry to eradicate dangers for seafarers. Although piracy in the Indian Ocean remains a problem, with many seafarers being held captive for months one end, the joint Naval Forces and Maritime Industry Committee has resulted in a better co-ordination and exchange of information. Despite limited resources, it has improved the safety of seafarers."

The conference will be attended by ITF affiliated unions from Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan and the global economic crisis makes the event particularly important this year, with unionists concerned over how market conditions in maritime sector is affecting safety and job security. This highlights the importance of cabotage, and the need for a national regulatory framework with clear and enforceable rules. Hanafi Rustandi, President of Kesatung Pelaut Indonesia (KPI) commented:

“Cabotage is an extremely sensitive issue in the Asia Pacific region. There have been far too many safety incidents due to lax legislation. The time has come to invigorate the role of national administrations and apply clear rules to operators who have sought to exploit existing ambiguity in order to lower safety and employment standards."

The ITF says that improved regulation is also crucial for the fisheries sector, where fishing and food processing unionists are working together to improve standards across the supply chain. The recent decision of the New Zealand government to reflag foreign fishing vessels has highlighted how grave problems of labour rights abuses and safety in the industry have become, and ITF unions will be discussing the next steps in their joint campaign with the IUF (International Union of Food Workers).

Photo: Cabotage has been a word long in the vocabulary of the shipping industry.