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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.”