Tug Boat Strike to Halt Operations at Australian Eastern Ports

Eastern Australia’s ports will be hit by 12-hour strikes next Tuesday and Wednesday as tug boat crews express their disagreement with a new industrial contract which would force three-person tug crews under a single agreement, according to local media.

The strikes, which will affect all coal carriers, fuel carriers, car importers and bulk container vessels entering port, will shut down activities in the ports of Sydney, Botany, Geelong and Newcastle on January 12, and the ports of Brisbane and Melbourne on January 13. The strikes will not affect cruise ships or defence vessels.

The strikes were organized by Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) tug crews after the Denmark-based tug operator Svitzer, that manages tug boats in Australian ports, attempted to force the crews, consisting of a skipper, a deckhand and an engineer, onto a new four-year enterprise agreement.

The AIMPE does not agree with the change in contract, and therefore issued Svitzer with a Notice of Industrial Action on January 6, according to GAC.

For 25 years the three-person crews were represented by three different agreements recognising different sets of skills.

The strike comes as a shock to Svitzer, as the company said it had already reached agreement with two unions, out of three involved in the matter, namely the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). Negotiations for a new agreement have been underway with the three maritime unions since October.

Svitzer is likely to take the strike threat to the Fair Work Commission this weekend.

Following the strike announcement, the port of Brisbane indicated that the move will have minimal impact on port operations, The Sydney Morning Herald cited Port of Brisbane’s chief operating officer Peter Keyte.

Brisbane has two tug boat operators, Svitzer and Smit, who have an interchange agreement, while in other ports Svitzer is the sole tug operator.

World Maritime News Staff

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