ETF Urges Sicilian Ports to Tackle Attempts of Self-Handling

DockworkerImage Courtesy: Offshore and Home Trade Seamen's Welfare Trust

Undisclosed shipping lines have attempted to conduct self-handling in a number of Italian ports, according to the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF).

Self-handling, which represents the use of seafaring onboard staff to load or lash cargo, rather than local dockers, was reported at the Italian ports of Palermo, Termini Imerese, Trapani and Porto Empedocle.

The ETF has addressed a letter to the Port Authority for the Western Sicilian Sea urging that the law is properly enforced.

“Italian law is very clear on the circumstances where shipowners can be allowed to ask their crew to perform cargo-handling tasks such as lashing and unlashing,” Terje Samuelsen, ETF Dockers’ Chair, said.

“In the case of the Sicilian ports, the required conditions, such as the non-availability of dockers, are not met. These are not isolated attempts, as we have been informed by our members, and we are taking them very seriously,” Samuelsen added.

Reclaiming lashing is one of the priority fights for ETF and ITF Dockers’ unions, also in the framework of the Fair Transport Europe Campaign 2.0.

In a context of growing automation and decreasing cargo volumes, lashing by dockers is an important way to retain port jobs. Moreover, lashing operations are very dangerous and should only be performed by qualified dockers, ETF informed.

Seafarers should not do lashing, because they are not properly trained for such operations and because they are often required to do lashing during their rest time.

In the framework of the International Bargaining Forum (IBF) negotiations, the ITF and the JNG have agreed on a new text of the so-called dockers’ clause which is expected to deter self-handling on board Flag of Convenience (FOC) vessels. However, ETF reported that self-handling attempts were reported not only on FOC vessels, but also on those flying national flags.

“Our Italian members estimate that in the case of the Sicilian ports, allowing an exemption to the law would cost up to 500 dockers’ jobs,” declared ETF Dockers’ Vice-Chair Torben Seebold.

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