Chilean Seafarers’ Defence of Cabotage Gets Support from Unions

In a united effort to support Chilean seafarers at the government’s plans to change the law on cabotage, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and its affiliated seafarers’ trade unions in Chile, expressed with a letter to the presidential palace, their strong opposition to the government’s proposed bill to change the law on cabotage.

As they say, there is a real risk that Chilean shipowners could reflag from national flags to flags of convenience, which would lead to the loss of more than 30 years of collective bargaining and potential job losses.

The proposed bill would mean that existing cabotage agreements, where shipping operations between Chile’s ports is only carried out by Chilean seafarers and domestic shipping companies, would be lifted, allowing for international companies to take the work.

Cabotage laws governing maritime activity are widespread, currently existing in 91 countries covering 80 percent of the world’s coastlines of UN maritime states.

These laws are geared towards protecting local shipping industries, and so ensure the retention of skilled maritime workers and the preservation of maritime knowledge and technology and promote safety and national security.

Stephen Cotton, ITF General Secretary, speaking after the meeting said: “It was a generally positive meeting. ITF made that points that cabotage is important for Chile’s economic stability and national security, as well as for supply chain security and stability – points which were received sympathetically. There were areas that we couldn’t agree on today, such as how you can enter and exit Chilean waters, but they expressed their willingness to engage with trade unions and welcomed further guidance and support from the ITF to give better protection to maritime workers.”

Paddy Crumlin, ITF President, said: “The ITF and its affiliates have been campaigning globally to underline the importance of national cabotage laws and the value of having domestic jobs in national waters, as well as domestic employment conditions for international seafarers in cases where national seafarers are not available.”

“Whether we are in Chile or Australia, we will prosecute the case for national seafarers working on their own coastlines, and we remain resolute in our commitment to the long-term viability of our domestic shipping industries not just for the employment opportunities that they deliver the maritime workers of today but the vital social and economic importance of shipping and seafaring for our countries.”