Maritime industry calls for inquiry after two port deaths in one week

Wednesday, 04 May, 2022

Maritime industry calls for inquiry after two port deaths in one week

Transport and maritime workers in Australia and New Zealand are mourning the loss of two Kiwi ‘wharfies’ who were killed within days of one another on the New Zealand waterfront in April. Both deaths were avoidable tragedies that have highlighted safety at work for thousands of Australian and New Zealand stevedoring workers, said Paddy Crumlin, President of the International Transport Workers President and Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.

“It is with deep shock that we have learned that a second MUNZ member in a week has been tragically killed on the docks, this time at Lyttleton. The MUA and ITF extend again our very deepest sympathies and condolences to the family, friends and workmates of the deceased and renew our calls for employers and government to engage seriously with the issue of safety at our ports and along the waterfront,” Crumlin said.

Lyttleton Port Company confirmed that there had been a fatality aboard the vessel ETG Aquarius, berthed at Cashin Quay on 25 April 2022. This tragic news came days after another young stevedoring worker was killed on the job at Port of Auckland, while unloading the Capitaine Tasman. Both incidents have prompted the MUA and ITF to call for a government inquiry into New Zealand port safety and the preventable tragedies that have occurred on the Kiwi waterfront.

“No family member should farewell a loved one in the morning and wonder if they will see them come home at the end of that shift. Every worker must be safe on the job, and every family should be reunited at the end of the working day. Stevedoring employers and government must take their responsibility to the workforce seriously and enact significant changes to improve the safety standards of this critically important industry,” Crumlin said.

Fatigue management is a massive issue within the New Zealand stevedoring industry, with many workers reportedly working upwards of 60 hours a week. The Maritime Union of New Zealand has pushed for the enforcement of stevedoring standards to reduce the widespread dependence on dangerous levels of overtime at Kiwi ports, with the tragedies at Lyttleton and Auckland reinforcing the need for legislative and regulatory reform to empower policing and enforcement activities. The union has also underlined the dangerous nature of stevedoring work, and that the exposure of its workforce to these traumatic incidents puts them at a risk of mental illness and PTSD.

“This is a tragic reminder that safety protocols and standards matter and must be taken seriously. Corner cutting is lethal, and waterfront workers will not put up with it when it’s their lives on the line, not the bosses’. The impacts of these tragedies are massive not just on the family left behind but every workmate and colleague who must return to work in the aftermath,” Crumlin said.

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