Maritime Unions Watching MV Portland Dispute in Australia

File Photo: Creative Commons
File Photo: Creative Commons

Maritime union groups around the world are closely monitoring a dispute over the replacement of the Australian-flagged bulk carrier MV Portland in south-eastern Australia, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has said.

New York-based metals manufacturer Alcoa wants to sell the aluminum carrier MV Portland and dismiss 40 local seafarers. The company plans to replace the bulk carrier with a ship sailing under a flag of convenience (FOC) and operated by cheap foreign labor.

ITF’s affiliate Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has been in dispute with Alcoa over its plan for nearly two months. International unions are backing the local campaign to protect jobs.

The MV Portland had been used by company for 27 years on the Western Australia-to-Portland route. The Australian government allowed Alcoa to replace the vessel with a foreign ship under a temporary license. But later, the Australian Senate denied to make changes to the country’s laws and open routes to foreign ships.

ITF said that the conservative Australian government’s policy seems to deregulate the local shipping industry. According to the union, the Senate rightly “blocked the government’s deregulation agenda with the government’s own figures saying this would result in more than 1,000 direct job losses.

“The ITF and international unions continue to show their solidarity with the workers on the front line at Portland because if it can happen to them it can happen to any of us. It beggars belief that the company and the Government have allowed this to develop, rather than show leadership and find a mutually agreeable solution to protect local jobs,” ITF President Paddy Crumlin said.

The MV Portland’s crew has moved the ship to anchor in Portland Bay to make a space for the P&O cruise liner Pacific Jewel, which arrived last Thursday.

Before Pacific Jewel’s arrival, traders, tourism operators, port authorities in Portland all were worried because of no space for the cruise ship. Last week, a meeting was held between local authorities and Alcoa, and all parties to move the MV Portland to anchor in the bay in order to make way for the cruise ship.

Nautilus International, which represents officers and seafarers in Great Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands, has members on board the UK-registered Pacific Jewel.

Mark Dickinson, general secretary of Nautilus International, appreciated the MV Portland’s crew and said that his union their supports plight and pays tribute to their cooperation to facilitate the visit of the Pacific Jewel into the port of Portland.

“We have been closely following the developments arising from the move by Alcoa to use a foreign-crewed ship in place of the MV Portland,” Mr. Dickinson said.

“We support the campaign to uphold safety and security in Australian waters by opposing the increased use of often substandard and low-cost flag-of-convenience shipping. We are appalled by the actions of Alcoa as well as the Australian Government’s lack of progressive shipping policies in favor of the lowest common denominator approach,” Mr. Dickinson added.

Writing by Nadeem (c) gCaptain