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Vessels must vacate Australian Ports ahead of lockout

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SYDNEY : Inchcape Shipping Services said vessels will need to leave Australia’s Port of Newcastle and Port Kembla ahead of a lockout of Svitzer’s harbour towage crews.

Inchcape advised that all vessels that require tug assistance will need to be ready in all aspects to depart the port by the morning of November 17 ready for co-ordinated departures throughout Thursday and Friday morning.

Svitzer will not tow vessels in or out of the 17 Australian ports it operates in. “Based on current advice, there will, in all likelihood, be no harbour tugs available for any purpose from noon on Friday 18 November 2022 at Port Kembla,” said Inchcape.

For the Port of Newcastle, vessels have been asked to vacate due to the expected lack of tugs available to respond to any emergencies.

“Based on current advice, the port will be limited in which vessels can enter port this week due to the fast turnaround required and limited/uncertain towage available,” said Inchcape.

Svitzer’s lockout is currently being considered by Australia’s FairWork Commission, which has the ability to terminate or suspend protected industrial action for reasons including causing significant damage to Australia’s economy. The Commission’s hearing is set to continue on November 17.

Svitzer Australia announced on November 14 that it had given notice of a lockout to all of its harbour towage employees covered by its 2016 pay deal, including members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), The Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU).

The lockout will beging at 1200 hrs AEDT on November 18 and run indefinitely, Svitzer said.

“This is harming Svitzer’s ability to reliably, safely and efficiently serve our shipping customers and port operations around the country and is causing serious disruption to the national supply chain which is reliant on shipping,” the company claimed.

Svitzer said it has been negotiating the contract with the unions since 2019 and has seen over 1100 instances of notified industrial action since October 2020.

“We had hoped it would never come to a lockout – but we are at a point where we see no other option but to respond to the damaging industrial action underway by the unions,” said Nicolaj Noes, MD Svitzer Auustralia.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin called Svitzer’s lockout “supply chain sabotage.”

Crumlin, who is also the President of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), said: “Svitzer’s workers have continued to turn up, work hard and contribute not only to the massive profitability of this successful company but save lives and protect Australia’s coastline during daring rescues of stricken cargo ships.”

Assistant Secretary of the MUA, Jamie Newlyn said: “Svitzer representatives have repeatedly turned up to negotiations with sudden and unreasonable demands which they know will derail the negotiation process and undermine the prospect of a mutually agreeable outcome.”

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