EU unions call for second manning directive.
European unions have called on the European Commission to relaunch its controversial manning directive in order to reverse the decline in European seafaring.
The directive, blocked by a minority of European Union governments and eventually withdrawn, deserves resurrecting given the dwindling number of EU citizens left in the profession, according to the European Transport Workers" Federation.
?The ETF calls for a second manning directive,? said Philippe Alfonso, political secretary of the umbrella group"s maritime transport division.
There was a precedent for second attempts, Mr Alfonso told a seminar organised by the European Economic and Social Committee. The commission had twice tried to legislate in the field of port services legislation, he said. Both attempts were rejected by the European Parliament.
There are those within the commission who still support the aims of the manning directive, which stipulated all crew on intra-EU services be treated as if they were subject to the employment law of any member state.
Opponents argue such a move would lead to retaliation against EU-flagged vessels in other parts of the world, though this was dismissed by commission maritime director Fotis Karamitsos.
?The arguments of the past are not valid,? Mr Karamitsos told the seminar. Talks between unions and shipowners had failed to find a solution, he said. ?We have asked for many years for the two sides of industry to come together. Unfortunately this has not happened so far.?
European Community Shipowners" Association secretary-general Alfons Guinier said owners rejected any move towards ?protective measures?.
He said: ?If you want to see why then there is the Jones Act: everything is there.?
The US Jones Act, which imposes restrictions on US coastal traffic and favours US-flagged and US-built ships, is considered responsible for the decline of the US maritime industry. According to European observers, the US dredging industry has been cosseted by the Act and is no longer competitive in foreign markets. A lack of competition has also priced US shipbuilders out of the market, some say.
Robert Coleman, head of the EU seafaring task force, said the EU manning directive did not impose European crews or EU flagged ships but rather European employment law. ?Anyone could have come,? he told Lloyd"s List. Mr Coleman, formerly a commission official, was one of the instigators of the directive.
The EU task force, which has not yet met, has been given the difficult task of finding a solution to the decline in seafaring while maintaining the competitiveness of the EU fleet. In a sign of the reaction EU measures could provoke, Mr Guinier told the seminar that flagging out to non-European registers was simple and fast.
On the sidelines of the seminar, union representatives expressed optimism the Commission would come to their aid. Shipowners also expect the manning issue to be revived in some form. Law-makers, however, talked down the prospect of new EU legislation. "There has been so much new law recently that there is a certain amount of indigestion,? said one Brussels source. ?What we will probably see is a new attempt to get unions and shipowners to come to an agreement.?