ITF defends national fleets
13 April 2017
The ITF has defended the rights of countries to protect their national shipping fleets at a recent meeting of the ITF Cabotage Taskforce. The taskforce is made of unions from Canada, Norway, Brazil, Greece, Russia, Ukraine, USA, Nigeria, Australia, the Philippines and India. It considers countries’ national legislation covering the transit of foreign-flagged shipping within their national waters (known as “cabotage”), which is an important mechanism in defending the integrity of that country’s national shipping fleet.
The taskforce welcomed the move by the United States to fine the company Furie Operating Alaska LLC USD10 million for violating the Jones Act (the USA’s freight cabotage law). The company had moved a drill rig from the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska in 2011 using a foreign-flag vessel without acquiring a Jones Act waiver. The US Department of Justice commented that the fine – believed to be the largest Jones Act penalty ever in the law’s existence – “demonstrates that the Jones Act will be actively enforced and that an intentional violation will not be rewarded”.
However, the taskforce also criticised moves in Australia to deregulate coastal shipping and so put Australia’s national fleet at risk by allowing foreign-flagged vessels to work in Australian waters with lower wage rates and poorer conditions for their crew.
Dave Heindel, chair of the ITF Seafarers' Section and secretary-treasurer of the Seafarers' International Union of the USA commented that: “Rather than allow unscrupulous tax dodgers running flag of convenience ships and exploiting foreign labour in a race to the bottom, any sensible person can see Australia needs Australian crews under Australian pay and conditions working on the Australian coast."
The ITF urged the Australian Government to work with the Maritime Union of Australia to develop a new “maritime crew visa” to protect non-nationals employed on ships issued with the proposed new temporary licence, and ensure that they have the same entitlements covered in the current work visas for foreign nationals working in Australian waters.