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Unifeeder is preparing to charge its customers a fee for lashing and unlashing containers on its vessels from 1 January.

In compliance with the new “Dockers Clause”, which comes into force on the same date, Unifeeder and its peers operating in North Europe, the Baltic Sea and Canadian waters will no longer be able to use ships’ crews for unlashing and securing containers, but must hire a shore-based lashing gang to do the job.

Currently it is common practice for feeder vessel charter parties to include a provision that, subject to the constraints of the port, ships’ crews are required to perform lashing and securing services during the hire period.

The unlashing of containers on the deck of a feeder ship after a berth becomes available greatly assists in the quick discharge of the vessel.

However, from 2020, operators and port agents will need a lashing gang that will be unable to board until the vessel is secured alongside. Box terminal operators are particularly concerned that the new regulation will lead to delays in feeder ship operations and subsequent congestion on the terminal.

One UK port source told The Loadstar today: “If we have to wait for a lashing gang to show up before we can start pulling the boxes off, it will slow us right down.

“And if they turn up late, or are stuck on another vessel, we may need to kick the feeder off the berth, causing a major headache for the planners,” he warned.

In June, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) urged companies to “ensure that they are in full compliance with the upcoming changes to the terms and conditions which will affect ships’ cargo handling operations in ports”.

The ITF acknowledged that, on reaching a settlement in February 2018, the parties to the IBF (a collective bargaining group formed from maritime unions and maritime employers) considered that the “Dockers Clause” might require “substantial change to arrangements with stevedoring companies, charterers and other third parties”, which it said was the reason for the grace period.

The ITF said: “The amended ‘Dockers Clause’ lays out procedures for loading and unloading operations in port which better safeguard the ship’s crew and the dockers’ right to do the work.”

Meanwhile, Unifeeder said it would initially charge boxes booked on liner terms an additional €7 per container per terminal, but for its deepsea carrier customers, where the terms are usually FIOS (free in and out stowed), it has urged them to “ensure that their stevedoring agreements make provision for lashing charges ex/to a feeder vessel”.

The carrier added: “This new practice is a radical change to functions that have been unchanged in Europe for the last 40 years. We will, during the month of April, make a review of the actual costs charged to Unifeeder during Q1 and we will adjust … accordingly.”

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  • Lasherman

    December 17, 2019 at 2:00 am

    Ha. I’ve been a lasher in the port of NJ (Where professional lashing companies are used, not just Junior members of the shore gang) and I can safely say that not a single vessel in all that time has ever been delayed or turned away for lack of lashers. Funny how they don’t have the same issue with wrangling their crane operators or hole men! The only ‘issue’ they have is that third world crewmen are usually a lot cheaper and easier to push around, an especially ‘useful’ setup for them considering the difficult and dangerous nature of cargo lashing.

  • Feederman

    December 20, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Comparing NJ to situation in Hamburg or Rotterdam is not fair either. How many real feeder vessels call NJ terminals in a week. Compare that number to the Rotterdam numbers and take in mind, that feeder vessels leave berth 30 minutes after ops finish today.
    On top of that the NJ terminals might plan-in 45-90 minutes of lashing before & after ops, which “kills” potential delays, in Rotterdam the planning is totally different and losing 90-180 minutes per feeder vessel on a already fully packed port results into a huge problem for transshipment.

    • Lasherman

      December 22, 2019 at 10:31 pm

      True enough, I am not personally familiar with Rotterdam’s operation, so certainly take that into consideration. But, to address your points; it is correct that NJ does not see many feeder ships these days, especially since the completion of local dredging operations and the raising of the Bayonne bridge… But, the lashing company setup has been the same for decades, since times when small feeder ships were the norm, and lashing delays were never an issue.
      Also, lashers board vessels at the start of operations and finish lashing along with loading ops… Again I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and can only think of one or two instances where lashing took particularly longer than operations due to unforseen circumstances.

      I’m beginning to think I’m missing something here… Are the ships there commonly using old style wire lashings instead of the usual bar-and- turnbuckle setup, or something like that?

      • Feederman

        December 25, 2019 at 8:01 pm

        Majority of the vessels do use regular lashing bars and very very rarely wire lashing.

        You said it yourself, NJ has a common practise and completely build around it. Rotterdam does not have that practise + it is allowed by offical law, that crew is allowed to lash/unlash on vessels below 170m.
        Does the agreements from the ITF overrule local law?!

        If the lashing/unlashign could be done by dockers as good and quick as by the crew, I would be fully for it, but sadly it is impossible.
        I.e. in Germany the terminals enforce the agreement by ITF even against the law + on weekends when most feeder vessels call, the dockers are not forced to work, but it is on each docker to decide if they want to earn extra money and most of them get paid that well already, that they just dont want or even have to.

        I am not a friend of the dockers clause, because it is not for safety, but just for securing work for dockers against automation at terminals. As said before, cargo will find the cheapest way to rech the destination and if feeders are not the cheapest mode of transport any longer, they will either move via a port with much cheaper labour OR to a different mode of transport if the final destinaation is in reach by truck or rail.
        The effect would be, that dockers succesfully agreed their own job away, while terminals still automate and replace the next few dockers.
        Talking tto the lashing companies even reveals, that they do not even want to handle the extra work, because they fear that the extra costs will cause cargo move away and resulting in less work than before.

        Whenever you are in Hamburg/Germany, please pay a visit to the employee carpark of the HHLA or Eurogate terminals. I have not seen a carpark with that many expensive cars in my life outside a RoRo terminal! And those cars switch perfectly every 8 hours with shiftchanges…