Panama manning dispute shows no sign of abating

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has fired back after the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) issued a statement earlier this week claiming that its punitive action against certain captains was because they had broken a contract that affected the mandatory requirement of the Authority to keep the canal operating.

The ITF expressed itself “surprised and disappointed” at the ACP statement The ITF reiterated its view that this was not a labour dispute, as the ACP refers to in its statement, but was instead “a fair request from transport professionals”, adding that  “the captains represented by UCOC must be able to ensure they can work in a safe environment for the prosperity of the Panama Canal”.

The ITF said that the ACP in its statement omitted a report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which detailed the incident of the USCGC Tampa in the new canal locks and clearly identified safety hazards.

The ITF said that it was in possession of correspondence showing that for more than two years the UCOC and other maritime unions had been warning the ACP about issues regarding training, safety and operations in the new canal locks. “Most of this correspondence was ignored, and on the few occasions that it was not the ACP’s responses were at best evasive and did not genuinely address the issues raised”, the ITF said.

The ITF further claimed that, although the ACP said that it encouraged personnel to raise issues on the canal policy in a constructive manner, for more than six weeks the ITF and many affiliated unions had offered to facilitate the dialogue between the parties, but that the requests, which were sent to the Panama Consular representations around the world, remained unanswered.

The ITF concluded that it was committed in supporting its Panama maritime affiliates and urged the ACP to “engage in constructive dialogue with Panama maritime unions to demonstrate a serious consideration for safety in one of the shipping industry’s most crucial waterways”.