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Cabotage was the focus of an international delegation speaking before members of the Australian parliament in that nation’s capital on February 7.

Among the speakers were the MTD’s Eastern Area Executive Board Member and the secretary-treasurer of the MTD-affiliated Seafarers International Union.

The meeting addressed the concerns of Australian mariners and dockers who are fighting the dismantling of that nation’s cabotage laws by the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

SIU of Canada President (and MTD Executive Board Member) Jim Given told the Senate inquiry by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee, “The reason for our appearance before you today is to discuss the importance of retaining and reinvigorating a domestic marine shipping industry.

“I’m regularly reminded of how the Coasting Trade Act in Canada and the Jones Act in the United States are so integral to the overall success of our shipping industries and such a large contributor to the economies of both Canada and the United States of America,” he added.

“These policies are often regarded by our colleagues in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia as the gold standard for the protection of seafarers’ rights and the safety of our domestic maritime industries. Not only do strong cabotage laws ensure that domestic seafarers retain their jobs, they are also tremendous catalysts of economic growth for countries with such policies in place,” Given said.

“What is the true cost, and what is the true cost we should focus on? Is it the cost to the shipping company? Or the cost to Australia? As politicians, and as community leaders of the country, are the people not more important that the profit because that is what it boils down to?” he asked the legislators.

David Heindel, the SIU secretary-treasurer, pointed out the Jones Act is responsible for “roughly 650,000 sustained American jobs with $41 billion in labor compensation and ultimately contribute $150 billion in annual economic output.”

He went on to say that the benefits of the US cabotage law are not limited to simply economics but also to secure the nation’s borders in times of war and national emergency as well as peacetime national security.

Given and Heindel were part of a larger delegation representing the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). (Given oversees the ITF Cabotage Task Force while Heindel serves as chair of its Seafarers’ Section). Others who spoke came from Norway and New Zealand. In addition, Deirdre Fitzpatrick – executive director of Seafarers’ Rights International – addressed the elected officials.

Their testimony noted 91 countries representing 80 percent of the world’s coastal United Nations maritime states have some type of cabotage laws limiting foreign maritime activity in their domestic coastal trades. They also remarked that cabotage laws protect foreign mariners against exploitation within the international shipping industry such as the substandard wages and working conditions found aboard flag-of-convenience vessels.

Before the panelists offered their testimony, they saluted the valiant effort of Australian firefighters, maritime crews and others in battling the wildfires devastating that nation.

The MTD is a stalwart supporter of the Jones Act and for stronger cabotage laws around the world.