ITF demand to strike may put workers in dock

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 May, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 May, 1996, 12:00am

Shipowners will seek court intervention if the International Transport Federation's (ITF) call for a week's industrial action in June against ships in European ports causes serious disruption.

International Shipping Federation (ISF) secretary David Dearsley said shipowners would act if dockworkers demanded to carry out tasks on board vessels for which they were not trained or qualified.

ITF, he said, had clearly sought to involve the world's seafarers in a campaign which was inspired by North European dockworkers to preserve their jobs by turning the clock back to the days of manual cargo handling.

'Seafarers will see through this and at the end of the week, while no doubt ITF will be awarding itself medals, it will be for action in a battle it will have lost.' Mr Dearsley said the strikes and boycotts of the kind ITF suggested were unlawful in the countries the federation targeted.

He said there had always been a small number of rogue shipowners operating sub-standard vessels, some of which had been caught in port control inspections or by ITF officials.

'But reputable shipowners, whether or not they accept ITF demands concerning wage rates, and the seafarers on their ships, will regard the ITF call as quite irrelevant to their operations,' he added.

Meanwhile ISF, which held its 100th council meeting in London on April 24, focused on two issues - implementing the revised Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) Convention and the future availability of quality seafarers. ISF president Juan Kelly said: 'The whole of our industry, not just shipowners and managers but governments and unions as well, need to co-operate positively and urgently to avoid the disastrous consequences of pretending that STCW and global manpower supply problems are neither serious nor urgent.' He said a significant proportion of ISF resources should be dedicated to ensure companies were fully aware of their new STCW responsibilities. The council had approved the production by ISF of a manual, which would be published in the summer, to assist those involved in implementing the new international training and certification standards.

The shipping industry, he said, had a direct interest in ensuring that crew supply countries took their place on the International Maritime Organisation's approved 'white list', thus maintaining a continuing availability of competent seafarers.

Mr Kelly said the council was concerned about the anticipated manpower shortage identified by the 1995 Manpower Update conducted by ISF and Baltic and International Maritime Council.