Friday, August 28, 2020

Unions Disappointed by Court Decision on Container Lashing Controversy

Case Will However Continue to be Subject to More Legal Investigations
Shipping News Feature

NETHERLANDS – WORLDWIDE – The row over whose job it is to secure shipping containers aboard a vessel took another turn yesterday when the Court of Rotterdam declined to order a vessel owner to comply with the terms agreed with international unions. The agreement mandates the use of trained, registered dockers to lash the boxes onboard, rather than the work be undertaken by the ship's crew.

The securing of containers is covered by the Non-Seafarers' Work Clause, also known as the Dockers' Clause, and precludes anyone but those shore bound staff to carry out the work. The reason the unions always point to is one of safety, unfortunately there have been many serious incidents during lashing operations, not least when container stacks are covered in ice.

Any signatory to the clause is expected to abide by it and on this basis the case was apparently brought when a group of unions, the ITF, ETF and those bodies’ affiliated unions Nautilus NL, FNV Havens and Ver.di, all of whom have long challenged the industry to comply with the clause, filed preliminary relief proceedings on 3 June 2020 against manning agents Marlow Navigation Netherlands B.V. and Marlow Navigation Company Limited (registered in the Netherlands and Cyprus respectively) and ship owner Expert Shipping B.V in the Netherlands.

Subsequently five charterer companies later made an application to the Court to join these proceedings after the clause, agreed In February 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2020. According to the verdict, urgency for interim relief as a result of the non-compliance indeed exists. However, the presiding judge was of the opinion that more extensive judicial review would be necessary to further examine several factual and legal questions, according to the ruling.

To the disappointment of the unions the judge considered that the matter was too complicated for summary proceedings. Following the verdict, the maritime unions say they will continue to fight for compliance with the Non-Seafarers’ Work Clause to see it enforced in full on all vessels with ITF collective agreements and the maritime unions are now considering whether to instigate an appeal against the preliminary decision, or proceed to the pending main proceedings where the Court will extensively examine the matter.