The hatchman acts as the eyes of the crane driver in those parts of a hatch which their vision would not otherwise cover.
The Federation has been alerted by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) to instances where a company sought to undermine the role of the 'hatchman' - someone who can act when needed to alert crane operators to dangers in any area where their vision may be obscured.
Despite the provision of someone to carry out this duty when necessary being mandated under Australian government Marine Orders, the MUA has reported cases in June this year where dockers had to threaten action and call in the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in order to block attempts to order workers to carry on without one.
ITF Dockers' Section Secretary Frank Leys stated: "So far dockers have successfully resisted attempts to force or con them into working without a lookout. Well and good, but the attempt should never have been made, and could be a harbinger of a longer running strategy to get this job scrapped - which would be pure folly"
He continued: "When needed, the hatchman acts as the eyes of the crane driver in those parts of a hatch which their vision would not otherwise cover. I am seriously concerned at recent developments on the Fremantle waterfront and across the Australian waterfront generally as some employers seek the removal of lookouts from stevedoring operations. Similar attacks on the hatchman position have been reported in Townsville, Darwin, Brisbane and Port Kembla."
He concluded: "The ITF supports the MUA's international claim for maintenance of hatchmen or similar designated employees in stevedoring operations, and will take up the issue with stevedoring operators, international shipping companies and beyond."
Australian Marine Orders state:
Appendix 18 Clause No.1
Provision of hatchman
Loading or unloading by means of a crane or derrick must not be carried out unless:
(a) the driver has an unrestricted view of the load at all times during loading or unloading; or
(b) a hatchman is employed for each crane or set of derricks who is clearly visible to the driver(s).
Appendix 6 Clause No. 4
Cargo space lookout
Where persons are in a cargo space in connection with loading or unloading, whether or not a crane or derrick is being used, there must be a lookout who:
(a) has a good view of the space;
(b) is able to see potential dangers to the persons in the space; and;
(c) is able to communicate with the persons in the space, and who must warn persons in the space of any perceived danger.
Note: The cargo space lookout may be a person with other duties, such as a hatchmen or the crane driver, provided that the person is capable of performing all assigned duties effectively.
The MUA has issued advice to Australian dockers on their right to have a hatchman present when needed. See Hatchman under attack