International Seafarers and Dockers Oppose Withdrawal of MV Portland by Alcoa

The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) fair practices committee (FPC), along with its cabotage taskforce today condemned a decision to scrap the MV Portland – an Australian-flagged and crewed ship dedicated to Australian coastal routes – and outsource the work to a flag of convenience vessel.

The ITF cabotage taskforce was launched last month to support cabotage protection laws that help maintain nations’ skills, shipping and security, and to challenge the threat of liberalisation posed by international trade talks. (See for more about the new taskforce.) The FPC represents the world’s most powerful docker and seafarer unions around the world

Today’s meeting stated that: ‘The decision by Alcoa to jettison this ship, these workers and 50 years of marine history is indefensible, and we strongly urge the company, even at this late stage, to abandon its plans. Until now this vessel and crew have been helping to defend vital national maritime skills and shipping. Its loss is not just a blow to the crew, their families and the local community, but also to Australia itself and the wider principle that countries have a role to play in protecting their vital trade resources.

Protecting maritime cabotage is a legitimate domestic policy – not protectionism. Forty-seven countries have some form of cabotage law, and this is because it is good for their economies. With a thriving maritime industry, people are working in good quality jobs and they are consuming goods and boosting the economy.

Failing to protect cabotage undermines sovereignty and has national security implications. It also has serious economic implications for maritime regions and communities.

Failing to protect cabotage will mean lost maritime skills and resources – and will remove the supply of qualified personnel from critical shore-based industries. Businesses whose livelihoods depend on local industry can be ruined, while job josses reduce government income from taxes.’

Chair of the ITF’s seafarer section and FPC co-chair Dave Heindel is also the secretary treasurer of the Seafarers International Union (SIU) of the United States of America. He stated: “Alcoa’s decision is a failure of responsibility by a US-owned company who should know better. What they are doing would be a legal and moral violation of our cabotage and shipping laws in the USA. They need to urgently review their decision."

For more about how cabotage laws protect skills see (