European Ship Operators Raise Concerns over Amended Dockers' Clause

BY Tiya Chatterji january 1, 2020

European short-sea and feeder ship operators are challenging initiatives by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) to redefine container lashing as a cargo handling activity in order to bring it under the control of unionized Dockers.

The reformulation, for which ITF is seeking acceptance at a increasing number of European ports, would mean that shore-based workers undertake shipboard container lashing under the supervision of the shipmaster. “Union suggestions that lashing done by dockers is safer are baseless,” the lines say, pointing out that it is even unclear that sufficient dock worker capacity exists to undertake the task.

“Fully trained ship crews at many European ports routinely undertake container lashing, working within strict safety guidelines,” Patrick van de Ven, founding partner of Venturn, a maritime and logistics consultancy based in Rotterdam, commented.“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.”

Six European short-sea and feeder lines in particular, all operating ships of under 170 meters in length, recon the change is legally invalid and 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. The owner group are convinced that short sea and feeder views were not fully represented by negotiators and has sought advice to challenge the legality of the amended Dockers’ Clause under the EU law. While agreements made by IMEC are often adopted more widely, employers and crewing agencies are fully entitled to operate outside their terms, Venturn said.

The amended “Dockers’ Clause” is the result of a five-year ITF campaign on “reclaiming lashing for dockworkers” which became part of a recent International Bargaining Forum (IBF) agreement between an International Maritime Employment Council (IMEC) negotiating group and the ITF. The Dockers’ Clause applies to IMEC-member crewing agents as from January 1, 2020. According to the text of the new clause, if Dockers aren’t available to lash containers, the ITF will still require crewing agencies to seek the permission of dock unions to do the work and prove that individual seafarers have volunteered.