SIU's Heindel Elected ITF Seafarers' Section Chair

Federation Revamps Runaway-Flag Policy; Crumlin Elected President

September 2010

Back to Issue

SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel unanimously was elected chair of the Seafarers’ Section at the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Seafarers Conference during the group’s gathering on Aug. 6, which was part of the ITF’s quadrennial Congress (convention) in Mexico City. Heindel becomes the first American to hold the position since the late SIU Executive Vice President John Fay, who was the first American to ever serve as chair. Fay served from 1995 to 2000.


Heindel will oversee the efforts of the most powerful and progressive section within the ITF, dealing with such subjects as the flag-of-convenience (FOC) campaign, piracy, the safety of mariners, and many others. He told the body, representing maritime unions from around the world, that he was honored to head the Seafarers’ Section. He said he looks forward to continuing on the work already underway as well as to facing upcoming challenges.


Among those challenges is the ongoing problem with piracy. An SIU-initiated motion condemning piracy and its impact on mariners passed during the Seafarers Conference and later was approved by the whole ITF convention. The motion states a belief “that more needs to be done to protect the world’s seafarers carrying out their duties serving on merchant ships.” It points out the trauma being inflicted not just on the mariners but also upon their families.


The statement “calls upon governments and the United Nations to take further steps to protect mariners and their vessels operating in these dangerous waters and to provide direct support to hasten the release of the numerous ships and their crews currently held.”


Additionally, the resolution “calls upon the ITF to coordinate with their international partners, both in labor and the commercial sector, to bring a strong and clear message to governments that more must be done.”


Throughout the Congress, which was attended by more than 1,500 people, delegates signed the ITF-sponsored petition calling for such strong action by governments of the world to combat piracy. (SIU members who haven’t signed the petition are encouraged to do so by visiting before Sept. 23.)


The Seafarers Conference and Joint Seafarers and Dockers Conference also adopted a revised FOC campaign to target flag-of-convenience vessels, also known as runaway-flag vessels. Here again, the revisions later were ratified by the entire Congress.


During its longstanding battle against runaway flags through the use of port inspectors, dockers and other international union officials, the ITF also collectively bargains with many FOC shipowners directly through the International Bargaining Forum. Already, the ITF has around 9,000 runaway-flag vessels under contract, up from 2,000 earlier in the decade.


“The FOC campaign is the linchpin to our success and is as important today as it was 62 years ago,” Heindel noted. “Even though we advocate the abolition of the FOC system, we must recognize that there are many responsible shipowners operating FOCs that are willing to negotiate a decent agreement. We must embrace, support and develop the model. The IBF agreement is not just a framework agreement, it is truly a collectively bargained agreement – the only one of its kind in the world!”


Heindel also said that while the FOC campaign and IBF have proven successful, many mariners continue to suffer unsafe working conditions with little to no pay. He vowed the ITF will continue its fight to assist all of the world’s mariners to improve working and safety standards for all who ply the world’s seas.


The federation pointed out that this is the first “major update” to the FOC policy since 1998. Known as the Mexico City Policy, it aims to “create a better balance between unions in beneficial ownership and labor-supply countries in order to provide improvements in the protection for seafarers,” according to the federation.


ITF Maritime Coordinator Steve Cotton said the new policy would continue to establish closer relationships between mariners and dockers and their unions, and develop methods that can be used to advance their interests.


He added, “The Mexico City Policy begins to address longstanding concerns about non-domiciled seafarers. It includes an understanding that the ITF’s engagement with national flag vessels is in partnership and in consultation with unions in those countries and reflects their concerns about protecting their own members.”


In other news from the ITF Congress, attendees called for the promotion of existing cabotage laws (like the Jones Act) in those nations who have them while promoting such laws in other nations as a means to protect mariners in their own countries.


Also, SIU Anchorage Port Agent Tracey Mayhew was elected to serve as ITF Fisheries Section Women’s Representative. This section oversees the efforts of those who work at sea and ashore within the fishing industry.


Along with Heindel and Mayhew, others serving as SIU delegates to the ITF convention were Gulf Coast Vice President Dean Corgey, ITF East Coast Coordinator Rick Esopa and Representative Daniel Duncan. Representing SIUNA-affiliated unions in Mexico City were American Maritime Officers President Thomas Bethel and Vice President Government Relations Michael Murphy as well as SIU of Canada President Michel Desjardins and Executive Vice President Jim Given.


On the last day of the convention, Paddy Crumlin, head of the Maritime Union of Australia, was elected ITF president. He is the twenty-second person to take on the post and the first Australian to do so.


“I’m excited to be able to take on this new role and play my part in moving the work of the ITF, its hundreds of affiliated unions and their millions of members forward through the implementation of a comprehensive organizing program focused on trade union regeneration and revitalization,” Crumlin stated.


Headquartered in London, the ITF has approximately 760 affiliated unions, including the SIU. Collectively, those unions represent more than 4.6 million members.

Share |

ITF WebgroupPictured directly above are (from left) SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel, Chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Section; Youji Fujisawa, 1st Vice Chair and President of the All Japan Seamen’s Union; and Tomas Abrahamsson, Vice President of the Swedish Union for Service and Communications Employees (SEKO).

Dave HeindelSIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel addresses the ITF Congress following his election as Chair of the federation's Seafarers' Section.

ITF WebgroupPictured at the ITF meetings are (from left) SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel, AMO President Tom Bethel and former ITF Seafarers' Section Chair Brian Orrell.