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Six European feeder and shortsea lines are challenging the extension of a “dockers’ clause” covering container lashing operations in ports to Europe.

The dockers’ clause stipulates that lashing operations must be undertaken by International Transport Workers Federation (ITF)-affiliated unions and originally became part of the International Bargaining Forum (IBF) agreement between an International Maritime Employment Council (IMEC) negotiating group and the ITF in February 2018, and has been extended to European and Canadian ports this year.

Previously, lashing operations were largely the preserver of vessel crews.

The six European carriers, all operating ships less than 170 metres in length, claim the change is “legally unenforceable, restricts competition for lashing activities, will bring extra costs and delays in container loading/discharge and could persuade shippers to switch to more-polluting road transport”.

They claim “union suggestions that lashing done by dockers is safer are baseless” and that “it is even unclear that sufficient dock worker capacity exists to undertake the task”.

Under the clause, if there aren’t dockers available to lash containers, crewing agencies are required to seek the permission of dock unions to do the work and prove that individual seafarers have volunteered.

Patrick van de Ven, founding partner of Venturn, a Rotterdam-based maritime and logistics consultancy, argued that the dockers clause would have no material impact on safety levels.

“Fully trained ship crews at many European ports routinely undertake container lashing, working within strict safety guidelines,” he said. “They are familiar with the ship and its cargo securing manuals and have a vested interest in ensuring that cargo is safely secured on the vessel they live on.”

Late last year, feeder sources told The Loadstar they believed the new clause could lead to delays for feeder operations, while Europe’s largest feeder operator, Unifeeder, said it would levy a €7 per container surcharge to cover expected additional costs as a result of the “radical change to functions that have been unchanged in Europe for the last 40 years”.

However, in a new year communique to members, the ITF said: “As we move through an uncertain future of automation and the ongoing struggle for jurisdiction, we loudly declare that lashing is dockers’ work.

“We expect some struggles in our respective national campaigns to claim lashing, but the ITF and its affiliates are committed to this struggle — and there is no acceptable outcome except victory.”

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  • Patrice caron

    January 07, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    Shipowners arguments 7Euro/container will drive them to more polluting transport mode, bullshit, 7 euros is nothing and it will probably be more like 1euro… Time to load and discharge, well, just think of it in advance, all shipowners are bond by this rule so all equal. They may show some frustration at the beginning but will fate out as time go by, like any changes.

    Reasons for using national dockworkers; Right to refuse unsafe work, work is being done on board a ship docked in a “national” port, which means jobs are for “national” workers, Jobs are in a port, meaning it’s for dock workers, wages are fully paid to dockworkers,

    Dockers’ clause would not have come up if workers did not notice abuses, so where there are abuses, workers stand together to fight them.

  • Seafarer

    May 26, 2020 at 11:54 am

    Well, these are huge claims here Mr. Caron.

    The public tariff for the Eurogate group advices a per container rate of 34 EUR per unit + another 17 EUR per unit twistlock fee.
    Thats 50 EUR away from your claim of it just being 1 EUR per container.

    And guess what, thats only 1 side of the sea transport. If oyu load a unit, you would also have discharge it. So another 51 EUR on top and suddenly we have another fee of 100 EUR per unit for a transport from Hamburg to Bremerhaven on top of the handling fees the lines have to pay to move a unit via sea.
    So total extra costs per unit are min 200-250 EUR per unit.

    Guess what, a trucking costs less and it is fully flexible to deliver directly door-to-door without requirements to touch 2 ports.

    Are you also aware, that the crew gets paid for this job? They are dependent on the bonusses they receive and they are also represented by the ITF. Is a seafarer not allowed to earn extra with bonusses?
    Will you as docker be responsible if the lashing you did on a vessel was not seaworthy?
    Will a docker go on board of a vessel and redo the lashing after a storm putting themselves in a position to trust their rlife into another pair of hands and hope they did the job properly in the ports?
    Who will pay for the relashing in case needed, while a big ocena vessel is approaching?
    Will you send our the small feeder not seaworthy or is that job suddenly not dangerous anymore for the crew?

    Please let us consider all angles, before sending out claims, which can be easily proven to be wrong!