ITF’s Cockroft To Speak On Human Factor At INTERTANKO Anniversary
ITF General Secretary David Cockroft will talk about the human factor in shipping and praise improved communication
between the ITF and INTERTANKO when he appears as a guest at the tanker owners’ association’s 40th anniversary meeting
in London today.
Addressing the meeting Cockroft is expected to say:
“It is unfortunate that you should be celebrating the 40th anniversary of INTERTANKO at the same time as what is quite
probably the worst oil related disaster in history, which is currently taking place off the US coast. Once again, it is
not the 11 rig workers who tragically lost their lives who get the most attention. It’s the oysters, the crabs, the
seabirds and the sea turtles.
“We do not yet know the reason for the accident and I am sure that lawyers will be fighting over it for many years, but
someone somewhere made a serious mistake. This demonstrates what the ITF has long been saying, and I suspect the reason
you invited me here today, which is that the human factor is crucial to a well run, safe oil industry – both in
production and in shipping.
“It may not have been a tanker disaster but, as a very good editorial in Tuesday’s Lloyds List made clear, ‘the relief
is short-lived, because the magnitude of the disaster will make it a shipping problem…as the impact of the Gulf spill
builds, so too will pressure on shipping to bear the additional cost of future clean-ups’.
“This demonstrates the crucial importance in this industry of concentrating on human factors. Having effective unions at
the workplace and making sure that workers, including crew members, are not too frightened to complain if they see
unsafe practices actually contributes to high safety standards. There are many INTERTANKO members who respect, recognise
and negotiate with ITF affiliates. Compared to the costs of a major disaster, giving workers decent pay and decent
conditions is not so very expensive.
“This is the Year of the Seafarer, when the IMO, under Thimio Mitropoulos, is focusing on the human factor in shipping.
Because the human element is not just about how seafarers are treated when they join the industry, but whether they want
to go to sea in the first place. Despite the global financial crisis, recruiting and retaining qualified seafarers has
become a major problem.
“The human element which you have asked me to address is a term which should cover all aspects of a seafarer’s
employment, work and life on board a vessel and their home life. It is also about security. Having a long term future
and a satisfying career.
“Going to sea is no longer glamorous, it is risky. As we have seen recently in a number of tanker incidents, it can
sometimes mean ending up in jail just for doing your job. The criminalisation of seafarers, against which we have been
working, together with INTERTANKO and other key industry bodies, is becoming a global scandal.
“An attack on any seafarer is an attack on the entire industry. This means that whenever seafarers are criminalised in
the event of a maritime accident, we need to act as a united industry – employers and unions together. We raised the
level of expectation with the Hebei Spirit, when we were close to organising the first joint shipowner/union mass
demonstration outside the Korean embassy in London when the two officers were finally let go.
“But seafarers are running into the criminal law in other areas. When drugs are found on a vessel it now seems to be
always assumed that the master and other crew members are involved. Even when the drugs are in a canister attached to
the hull or when they have been concealed in the cargo.
“But now in addition to the risks of prosecution by authorities who seem to understand very little of the conditions
under which seafarers work, we have to add the escalation of piracy and armed robbery.
“The situation off the coast of Somali, in the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean is now totally unacceptable. This
has been made far worse by the ludicrous United States Executive Order imposing massive sanctions on shipowners for
simply trying to negotiate the release of their crew. Shipowners and insurers don’t know whether they can pay a ransom
without putting their US assets at risk of seizure until they have consulted the US Office of Foreign Assets Control and
received the right answer.
“Where does that leave the captured seafarers?”
Cockroft will continue: “I am pleased to look back on the ground breaking event we organised with INTERTANKO last year,
the young seafarers’ focus group, which was a great success. As you know we took them to meet Efthimios Mitropoulos at
the IMO and they told him what they thought. We now have to deliver solutions to the concerns they raised.
“So although we will have disagreements with INTERTANKO and its members from time to time, we are very happy to salute
you on your 40th birthday and to wish you the very best for the future. Tanker owners have begun to realise that the ITF
and its unions don’t have horns and a tail, and we are doing our best to convince our members that you are also
concerned to raise standards and make the industry safer and better for the people who work in it.
“On many issues seafarers and decent shipowners share the same concerns and our opinions carry more weight with
regulators and decision makers when we sing from the same hymn sheet.
“Shipping is not as influential today as it once was so it is vital that we work together to keep the maritime sector at
the top of politicians’ agendas. The climate change debate is growing in importance and shipping has to play its part
but we hope and trust that the politicians who devise emissions trading schemes will also listen to the voice of the
industry and ensure that the IMO plays a major role in administering whatever emerges from the current chaotic UN
“I was very pleased to receive this invitation to speak at this event on behalf of the world’s seafarers. The ITF and
INTERTANKO have a great deal in common. We look forward to continuing to work with you in the future for a safe, secure
and attractive maritime industry.”