A major safety incident has occurred at DP World’s Port Botany container terminal in Australia when wire ropes on a crane used to load and unload shipping containers slipped.
Luckily, no one was injured in the incident, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said.
Initial investigations indicate that a contractor from Melbourne hired to replace wire ropes on the crane failed to follow appropriate procedures, resulting in clamps being installed upside down, a torque wrench not being applied, and endurance testing not being undertaken, according to MUA.
The crane remains out of action following the incident, almost two weeks since the outsourced maintenance commenced.
Local stevedores are taking part in industrial action and strikes at Fremantle Terminal, Port Botany Terminal, Brisbane Terminal and Melbourne Terminal in an effort to protect their jobs from outsourcing and automation.
The union said that DP World management insisted it needed to outsource the wire rope replacement due to the industrial action, despite members of MUA nominating a maintenance crew that would not take part in planned strike action and instead undertake the work.
MUA Sydney Branch Secretary Paul McAleer explained the slipping of wire ropes on the crane could easily have resulted in a catastrophic accident.
“These massive cranes carry huge loads, so any failure can have catastrophic consequences. Thankfully, no one was injured when these new ropes slipped, but the fact remains that the company’s insistence on outsourcing this work to a contractor that had never previously worked on these cranes resulted in a highly dangerous and very costly failure,” McAleer noted.
“DP World are trying to claim this work was only outsourced because of ongoing industrial action, but the fact is that union members made a commitment before the Fair Work Commission, 48 hours before strike action was due to begin, that a maintenance crew was available to carry out the wire rope replacement.”
“DP World management rejected this offer, insisting on flying contractors from Melbourne who had never worked on these cranes before to carry out the work. While another recent rope change took local workers less than 12 hours, DP World have now been operating without a crane for nearly two weeks because of their insistence to outsource this work,” McAleer added.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said the incident highlighted the concerns of workers who have been campaigning against outsourcing and automation of jobs at the Dubai-based stevedore’s container terminals in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle.
“One of the major issues behind recent industrial action at DP World’s terminals has been a desire by workers to have greater protection against their work being outsourced to the cheapest bidder,” Smith pointed out.
“This incident, which put the health and safety of workers at risk, highlights exactly why workers fear moves by DP World to contract out work, which will result in corners being cut as the drive to save a dollar is put ahead of safety and all other considerations.”