ITF to Trade Panel: Cabotage Laws Work, Should Remain in Place


August 2016


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An official from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has gone on record voicing his objection to the inclusion of cabotage laws in the U.S.-European Union (E.U.) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which currently is being crafted.


ITF Seafarers Section Secretary Jon Whitlow, speaking July 13 in Brussels before negotiators formulating the measures said, “There is no reason for either side in TTIP to seek access to the other’s domestic cabotage regimes or to restrict measures by either party to grow their national first registers and national seafaring jobs.


“And therefore, since access to the international maritime trades on both sides of the Atlantic is already open, there is no reason for the European Commission to continue to call for a maritime services chapter in TTIP,” Whitlow added.


The SIU is an active affiliate of the ITF; SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel serves as chair of the federation’s Seafarers’ Section.


The ITF represents more than 700 transportation-related unions from about 150 nations. The SIU works closely with the ITF on campaigns around the world aimed at protecting mariners’ rights, safety and job security.


The SIU continues to be very involved in the never-ending fights to preserve the Jones Act, the freight cabotage law for the United States. Earlier this year, the union worked with other maritime labor organizations and U.S.-flag ship operators to beat back the latest attack when some members of Congress tried to exclude Puerto Rico from Jones Act coverage.


Last year, the SIU stood with its counterpart north of the border, the SIU of Canada, to call attention to the Canadian- E.U. Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), in which Canadian cabotage was attacked. Currently that trade pact is on hold, but the SIU, ITF, Maritime Trades Department, SIU of Canada and other allies continue to monitor any efforts to resurrect the measure.


In his remarks, Whitlow noted the attempt to go after Canadian maritime jobs through CETA. He called on the negotiators to “include a strong, legally binding labor chapter, with recognition of [International Labor Organization] global labor standards as minimum standards and E.U. and U.S. standards on social and labor rights and … exclude transport from the scope of negotiations.”


He called out European negotiators for their attempts to circumvent cabotage laws “despite the clear success and valid economic and security reasons for national domestic maritime policies – including cabotage.” He pointed out many European nations have second registries – which allows mariners from non-traditional maritime countries to crew such vessels, thus circumventing the labor and safety laws of national registry. Also, he said eliminating cabotage laws and including maritime in international pacts could allow far more flag-of-convenience (or runaway-flag) shipping.


Following Whitlow’s remarks, ITF President Paddy Crumlin stated, “The ITF and its unions are committed to defending cabotage, which is in operation in 47 nations. We are on record as pointing out that failing to protect cabotage undermines sovereignty and has national security implications. It also has serious economic implications for maritime regions and communities.”


Crumlin also serves as the head of the Maritime Union of Australia, which has been fighting its government’s attempts to destroy Australia’s cabotage laws.



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