Unions will march in protest of US port action

Sep 26, 2004
Author: P&S

South African transport trade unionists say they intend taking to the streets of three port cities this week to show their solidarity with seafarers who experience hardship when their ships visit US ports.

The marches will take place at Durban on Tuesday, 28 September, Port Elizabeth on Wednesday 29 September and Cape Town on Thursday, 30 September. The marchers will target the US consulates as well as the South African departments of Foreign Affairs and Transport.

The reason for the marches is to sound an alarm that post 9/11 measures are criminalizing innocent seafarers, says the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). It calls on ship sirens/whistles to sound in protest at 12.00 Noon on Wednesday, 30 September which is World Maritime day.

“The most acute problems have been experienced in the United States, where in addition to the frequent denial of shore leave some companies have even been required to hire armed guards to prevent foreign seafarers from leaving their ships. However, the problem is widespread, with many other countries no longer adhering to the principle that seafarers should not be required to obtain visas in order to enjoy shore leave,” it says.

“South Africa hasn’t endorsed what the US is doing but we know our government is considering taking a harder view,” says Zico Tamela of the South African Transport & Allied Workers Union (Satawu).

“We don’t believe government is applying its mind properly to the real issues facing seafarers – there’s a general unawareness on its part of the plight of seafarers particularly those on ships flying flags of convenience.”

Tamela said he didn’t anticipate a large turnout at the local marches because the local maritime industry had withdrawn its support and would not allow leave for Satawu members, but the marches would still go ahead.

More details of the ITF position can be found at www.itf.org.uk/english/pressarea/july/sfsecurity.htm

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