Friday, October 21, 2011
The Rena. A Neo-Liberal failure.
Nearly two weeks ago now a container vessel grounded on Astrolobe reef near Tauranga, New Zealand.
Shipping accidents like the Rena are entirely at the door of Neo-Liberal economics.
The foreseeable results of Globalisation, de-regulation, the endless search for the cheapest, the socialisation of risks and the privatisation of benefits..
Tired, overstressed, low paid crews, cheaply built and maintained ships, inadequate or ignored regulation and excessive workloads are the norm at sea.
Flags of convenience exist entirely so that shipping companies, and shippers, can reduce the costs: of corporate and income taxes, safety standards, operating standards, crew conditions and wages and build standards of shipping.
They allow a competitive race to the bottom to see who can become the cheapest.
There is no reason whatsoever to use a flag of convenience if you intend to operate a vessel to a high standard. There would not be any cost savings.
The constant struggle to maintain cheaply built ships, designed and built for a 15 year life. Is bad enough when they are new. 5 or 10 years beyound their design life , keeping them going is a 24 hour a day job.
Low wages, mean that high quality well trained crew find other work ashore or in higher paid work like the oil industry.
Masters and Chief engineers are often the only properly trained and skilled members of the crew, with the numbers made up of cheap labour with dodgy qualifications.
It is common for crew to be on board working shifts with less tha 8 hours off a day for more than 9 months.
Training standards are variable, with a noticeable drop in the standard of training, even from first world countries. At the same time crew numbers have been dropped so there are not the personnel available to babysit and train.
Seafarers are expected to rest in ships with levels of noise and vibration that would have been totally unacceptable thirty years ago. Ashore in NZ it is illegal to get people to work, let alone sleep, in those conditions
In New Zealand, Masters who refuse to sail because of broken equipment or rough weather and crew members who refuse to falsify rest hour, maintenance, safety and leave records are protected by our employment laws.
A sacking for those reasons, in New Zealand, would be a legitimate case for unjustified dismissal..
On FOC ships they are sacked or their contracts are simply not renewed.
The worst of it, since the 1980's and Governments cave in to the farming lobby on Cabotage, in NZ, even local shipping companies, whatever their intentions , are also cutting standards to compete with cheap overseas shipping.