Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cargo Ship Stranded By Unloading Dispute

A foreign cargo ship is stranded at a NSW south coast port because of a dispute over the use of crew members to unload it. The Maltese-registered MV Capo Noli is waiting at Port Kembla to unload its cargo of gypsum from South Australia. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has accused charter company Canadian Steamship Line (CSL) of breaching an international agreement banning the use of seafarers working as stevedores. As many as 70 wharfies, union officials and local residents gathered at the port to protest at what the MUA describes as an unlawful bid to force the sailors to do stevedoring work - the discharging and unloading of ships. But CSL has denied it is acting illegally, saying the Capo Noli is a self-unloading vessel and its Filipino crew are employed under appropriate international labour agreements. The MUA's assistant national secretary Rick Newlyn disputes the claim that the ship is fully self-unloading. He said the crew would be forced to use the ship's five cranes and to operate front-end loaders, which was stevedoring work. "The seafarers do not have the skills, don't have the occupational health and safety commitment and don't follow the legislation," Mr Newlyn said.
MV Capo Noli
"They're foreign seafarers on conditions of pay that only cater for seafaring work on the vessel, not shore-based labour." CSL Australia managing director Chris Sorensen maintained the crew was trained, paid and contracted to do the work. Mr Sorensen said the sailors were ready to start work but had been obstructed by the union, which he said had instructed its members not to move the port equipment, known as a hopper, needed to funnel the cargo into waiting trucks. CSL was considering court action as the MUA was acting illegally, he said. "This is an illegal dispute and we have got rights to look at our legal position in that respect," he said. The union denied obstructing CSL and said the hopper was privately owned and its operation had nothing to do with MUA members. Mr Sorensen said the company had been self-unloading gypsum at Port Kembla for four years without interference by the union. "The fact that the union have decided to undertake an illegal action on this vessel certainly surprises us," he said. But Mr Newlyn said the ship's master had acknowledged the crew's contracts did not cover the discharging of the ship. "I wouldn't be here and a number of the south coast community would not be here if it wasn't for the fact that this is not a self-discharger," he said.

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