Thursday, November 19, 2015

US Company Accused of Cabotage for Withdrawal of Support for Domestic Freight Vessel

Unions Condemn Double Standards
Shipping News Feature
AUSTRALIA – US – Our story last week told of the upset caused by Alcoa, the US giant aluminium corporation, deciding to cease freight operations by scrapping its long serving vessel the MV Portland and dismissing the crew. Union groups were incensed by the decision to lay off staff and employ the services of a vessel under a flag of convenience manned with a foreign crew. We mentioned the restrictions imposed on US domestic sailings by the Jones Act whereby the trade must employ US built and registered ships employing solely US nationals and this point was picked up by a senior official at the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF).

Speaking after a meeting of the ITF cabotage taskforce which supports cabotage protection laws designed to ‘help maintain nations’ skills, shipping and security’, and to challenge the threat of liberalisation posed by international trade talks, Dave Heindel, chair of the ITF’s seafarer section and FPC co-chair and Secretary Treasurer of the Seafarers International Union (SIU) of the United States of America commented:

“Alcoa’s decision is a failure of responsibility by a US owned company who should know better. What they are doing would be a legal and moral violation of our cabotage and shipping laws in the USA. They need to urgently review their decision."

The cabotage taskforce meeting issued a statement about the Alcoa decision appealing for a level playing field with standards expected in the US to be maintained by American companies when trading elsewhere in the world. It read:

“The decision by Alcoa to jettison this ship, these workers and 50 years of marine history is indefensible, and we strongly urge the company, even at this late stage, to abandon its plans. Until now this vessel and crew have been helping to defend vital national maritime skills and shipping. Its loss is not just a blow to the crew, their families and the local community, but also to Australia itself and the wider principle that countries have a role to play in protecting their vital trade resources.

“Protecting maritime cabotage is a legitimate domestic policy, not protectionism. Forty-seven countries have some form of cabotage law, and this is because it is good for their economies. With a thriving maritime industry, people are working in good quality jobs and they are consuming goods and boosting the economy. Failing to protect cabotage undermines sovereignty and has national security implications. It also has serious economic implications for maritime regions and communities.

“Failing to protect cabotage will mean lost maritime skills and resources, and will remove the supply of qualified personnel from critical shore-based industries. Businesses whose livelihoods depend on local industry can be ruined, while job losses reduce government income from taxes.”