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Shipping industry sinks while Govt. looks away

Media release 25 November 2003 ­ For immediate release

Shipping industry sinks while Government looks the other way

The Maritime Union of New Zealand says the withdrawal of another New Zealand ship from coastal trade is an abandonment by Government and business of New Zealand¹s future domestic and international transport needs.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says "As every year goes by, the New Zealand shipping industry is being killed off ­ and with the lack of action, we have to say it is being deliberately killed off."

New Zealand shipping company Pacifica has announced the withdrawal of the "Spirit of Enterprise" with the expected loss of around 22 jobs by the end of the year.

This leaves only two coastal freighters in the Pacifica fleet, after Pacifica withdrew the "Spirit of Vision" from service earlier in 2003.

Pacifica has told the Maritime Union a major reason for the withdrawal is the pressure from international transit ships moving cargo at cut price rates.

Maritime Union Auckland Seafarers Branch Secretary Garry Parsloe says "Overseas owned flag of convenience ships pick up cargo between New Zealand ports, and as they have to make the journey anyway to pick up international cargo, they can do it at cut price rates."

The Maritime Union says there is a simple explanation for the competitive rates of overseas Flag of Convenience shippers ­ conditions and wages of Third World crews on flag of convenience ships are appalling, with abuse, unsafe practices and exploitation the norm for many crews.

"No other industry in New Zealand has to tolerate exploited foreign labour employed at pay rates as low as $2 dollars per hour - we have basically got a system of serfdom on the high seas going on off the New Zealand coast" says Mr Hanson.

The Maritime Union has campaigned hard this year for cabotage, where New Zealand ships are given priority on New Zealand domestic shipping routes.

"Unless the Government acts to support this vital industry immediately, we are going to be a country dependant on seaborne trade that has no merchant fleet and no New Zealand seafarers."

Mr Hanson says that the destruction of New Zealand shipping industry could have massive implications for our exports in an unstable and unpredictable global environment.

"Right now if an international shipping terrorist attack was to occur and the United States of America demanded Seafarers domiciled and security cleared from the country of cargo origin, New Zealand could not meet their requirements" he says.


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