Monday, September 26, 2011

Union Action Against Freight and Passenger Vessels and Ports

Poorly Regulated Operators Targeted in Safety and Fair Treatment Campaign
Shipping News Feature

ASIA – This week sees a further extension to the campaign by transport, maritime and dock unions protesting against the neglect of safety standards often found on freight and passenger vessels sailing under flags of convenience and ports which handle cargo in a dangerous or unregulated fashion. From today (26th September) until the end of the week there will be action by the unions at major ports in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Russia. Staggered weeks of action are being held in India and Sri Lanka in September, November and December, with inspections taking place this week in Cochin, Chennai, Colombo and Tuticorin.

Leading the campaign is the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the current action, the third so far this year, will focus on the condition and provision of lifesaving and cargo- related equipment, as well as on crew terms and conditions. The current campaign follows on from ITF successes in India and Sri Lanka last year.

In Japan, checks will now be made at the port of Mishima-Kawanoe following reports of injuries, particularly among casual workers working long shifts there. Trade unionists will rally outside the premises of shipowner Kotoku Kaiun, which has refused to sign ITF agreements, as well as in front of the head office of Dowa Line in Tokyo.

In Korea, activities will take place at the ports of Pusan, Incheon and Ulsan, followed by rallies at Pohang, Pusan and Incheon in support of the ILWU union’s struggle to represent workers at the Port of Longview, which is part owned by Korean company STX. In the Russian Far East, Vladivostok, Nakhodka and Vostochniy will be the ports which are targeted.

The ITF campaign was stimulated in May when a US coastguard report criticised the lack of attention to standards concerned in the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. The deepwater rig, whilst operating in US waters, was registered under a flag of convenience, the Marshall Islands and the ITF also made the link at the time with the huge increase in piracy which makes less well regulated vessels an easy target for the raiders as they see safety and general operating standards across the board as slacker than is acceptable.

Photo: Nothing new under the Sun – Glasgow dockers striking in 1889.