Now that the facts about cabotage laws around the world have been revealed, it’s time to capitalize by growing those regulations and strengthening them.
SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel delivered that message Sept. 27 in Bergen, Norway, where he was a featured speaker at the Norwegian Seafarers’ Union (NSU) congress. Heindel spoke on behalf of both the SIU and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). He chairs the Seafarers’ Section of the ITF.
His speech took place three days after the organization Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI) posted a major report on cabotage laws (see story, page 3). That study, the first of its kind since 1991, found that 91 countries maintain some form of cabotage law.
“The SRI report found that cabotage laws promote shipboard and environmental safety, national security and good jobs,” Heindel told the convention attendees. “But they also discovered – or maybe a better word would be verified – that many countries around the world are constantly fighting to defend their cabotage laws.”
Heindel said the opposition mostly stems from a misguided belief in total deregulation and a focus on “profits above all, often to the exclusion of even a cursory consideration for seafarers, their families, the environment and local communities to which their vessels operate.”
He reminded the audience that the ITF Cabotage Task Force (on which NSU President Johnny Hansen plays a very important role) helped equip SRI to conduct the study.
“Now that we have the facts, our next steps involve worldwide publicity and targeted leverage to strengthen and grow cabotage laws,” Heindel said. “Brothers and sisters, that includes right here in Norway, where mariners sailing in your territorial waters absolutely must receive Norwegian terms and conditions. This isn’t optional and it shouldn’t be treated as optional.”
He said that even though the freight cabotage law in the United States (the Jones Act) is “considered the gold standard” of such statutes, “we have to fight to defend it practically every day. That’s despite high-level support from our military leaders and government folks, and nearly a century of bipartisan backing from our Congress and from one presidential administration after another, including the current administration.
“Our supporters consistently say that the Jones Act benefits national, economic and homeland security,” he continued. “And I don’t think there’s any question that strong cabotage laws would benefit any nation in those same ways. They lead to maintaining a pool of reliable, well-trained mariners; a capable shipbuilding base; and safety and security along the coasts and inland waterways. The bottom line is that cabotage is sound, time-tested policy, and the ITF will continue promoting it day after day, month after month, year after year, all across the globe.”
Moreover, Heindel recognized and congratulated Seafarers Union of Canada President Jim Given, who chairs the ITF Cabotage Task Force. “Earlier this month, the SIU of Canada announced that Canadian seafaring unions finalized an agreement with the government securing cabotage rights for Canadian mariners aboard vessels flying any flag traversing that nation’s domestic waterways,” Heindel reported. “This was the culmination of a years-long fight and more lawsuits than I care to count, but it shows that victory is indeed possible. And even though Jim didn’t try to take credit, he absolutely led the way.”
He wrapped up his remarks by reiterating the commitment of both the ITF and the SIU in promoting women’s rights in the maritime industry.