100,000-strong demonstration through Dublin on December 12 2005 in support of the Irish Ferries workers’ occupation
100,000-strong demonstration through Dublin on December 12 2005 in support of the Irish Ferries workers’ occupation

A NEW report from Cardiff University’s Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology has added to the portrait of a maritime industry where fatigue is endangering crews, vessels and the environment said the maritime Union of Australia (MUA) yesterday.

It was released to make it available for study before the International Maritime organisation’s (IMO) Standards of Training and Watchkeeping sub-committee annual meeting, which began on Tuesday.

The International Transport Federation (ITF) commissioned report – Adequate Manning and Seafarers’ Fatigue: the International Perspective – reveals how far behind the industry is in tackling the problem.

The new report broadens the perspective of recent research by examining international findings and how other industries approach the problem.

Among its main findings are that there is overwhelming evidence of the existence of maritime fatigue; yet the industry has been reluctant to invest resources into monitoring or preventing it.

It notes that in civil aviation, for example, flight time is regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Agreement, with a limit of between 70 and 100 hours of flight time allowed over a period of a month (times vary according to different countries’ rules), compared with the 98 working hours a week permitted by maritime regulation.

In spite of the long periods spent away from home and the clear risks to the long term health of seafarers and the evident association between fatigue and accidents at sea, scant progress has been made to regulate and enforce hours of work in the industry.

The report also highlights the worrying phenomenon of false record keeping, where seafarers are bowing to pressures that undermine onboard safety and health.

The report calls for a holistic approach to maritime fatigue, encouraging the development of an onboard safety culture underpinned by realistic levels of manning, and a more robust approach to regulation.

Commenting on the research John Bainbridge, Assistant Secretary of the ITF’s Seafarers’ Section, said: ‘This report confirms what we already know.

‘Seafarers are routinely working excessively long hours, endangering themselves and the marine environment.

‘It’s time to stop putting seafarers at risk and to learn from the examples of best practice in other industries.’

The ITF has also taken up the case of the murder of the leader of the Guatemalan dockers Pedro Zamora.

The ITF has expressed outrage over the execution-style murder of Zamora, General Secretary of the Guatemalan STEPQ dockers’ union.

He was shot 20 times by multiple assailants who ambushed him as he collected his sons from a hospital appointment at 19:00 on Monday (January 15).

After firing 100 shots one walked up to the wounded Zamora and shot him at point blank range in the face – in front of his children, one of whom, three year old Angel, was wounded in the attack. Zamora’s last act had been to push the children to the floor to try and protect them.

David Cockroft, ITF General Secretary said: ‘This is an outrage, pure and simple.

‘It could not have been a more dirty and cowardly attack.

‘It’s a filthy little act that makes the blood of any decent person boil.

‘The Guatemalan government will never be forgiven if it doesn’t investigate and then bring the murderers to justice.

‘The government and police are under the spotlight on this one.

‘We and the international community will not allow them to let this case slip conveniently away the way they have too many times in the past.

‘The people who carried out this brutal attack must be found, along with the people who ordered it – no matter who they are and how high up they work.

‘The paramilitary style of this murder, including the use of the “tiro de gracia”, the shot in the face long favoured by right wing death squads and their for-hire thugs, should give the authorities a few pointers to where to begin looking.

‘Pedro was one of our own, a valued member of the ITF as well as a family man and leader of his trade union.

‘We will grieve for him alongside his family, friends and colleagues, but we will not forget that it does not end here.’

Pedro Zamora had known he was being followed for several months, in response to his role in defending workers’ jobs at Quetzal, while police were also sent to intimidate him, allegedly at the orders of the port company.

The ITF protested to the government about this in October last year, and notified the ILO (International Labour Organization), which has remonstrated with Guatemala before over the number of killings of trade unionists.

At the time of his murder Pedro Zamora was continuing to negotiate on behalf of his members over the future of the port.

Just a week ago the Minister of Communications, Transport and Public Works had committed parliament to reinstate nine unfairly sacked workers, as requested by STEPQ and the ITF – reportedly to the anger of the port’s general manager, who was implicated as the man who ordered police to go into the port and arrest union leaders last year.

Zamora had taken his children to the hospital located within the port.

The attackers were waiting for him as he left the port.

Meanwhile, the Maritime Workers Union reports that two Malawian non government organisation (NGO) members allege that they were ordered to Karonga Police Station by the Chief of Police in northern Malawi on Thursday 4th January.

They were then threatened with arrest for taking an Australian photojournalist sponsored by the MUA and the CFMEU (mining union) to photograph and interview community members at the controversial Australian uranium mine site.

According to Reinford Mwangonde from Citizens For Justice (CFJ) in Malawi a police van carrying around 10 police officers went to Foundation for Community Support Services (FOCUS) looking for Kossam Jomo Munthali and ordered that he and Munthali attend Karonga Police Station.

Mwangonde alleges that at the police station Sale, Chief of Police, then told them that Paladin Resources had called them ‘from a long way away’ and complained that the NGO members had taken an Australian photojournalist to the mine site.

Mwangonde said that he told the police that he had taken the photojournalist Glenn Lockitch to interview affected community members with the permission of the village headman but did not go to the mine site itself.

Munthali said that he told the police that he was not even in the district on that day.

According to Mwangonde ‘it’s unfortunate that Paladin is harassing us by using the Malawian police to promote its own agenda and protect its own interests at the expense of Malawians.’

He said that he told Sale that he had not broken any law and dared Sale to arrest him. Mwangonde said that they were then told that in the future any meeting that the NGO’s hold in regard to uranium should be reported to the police.

The Perth based mining company is waiting for approval from the Malawi government to mine uranium in the remote northern region where an open pit mine is to be constructed with a tailings waste dam 600m x 300m and 135m deep which will sit just above a local river used by the community.