Having been overseas for a short trip I arrived back in Cork to discover that a Cambodian registered ship mv Defender had been detained in Cork Port and was at the centre of a pay row with the International Transport Federation. I have highlighted the question of "Flags of Convenience" before and Cambodia is one such Flag of Convenience. The ship's crew hadn't been paid and were on strike. They were being supported in their action by Cork dockers and the ITF. The dispute has now been settled with four of the crew on their way home, but the problem of Flags of Convenience still remains.
For all the talk of the EU, it has done prescious little to protect the rights of seafarers affected by the Flag of Convenience issue. The Defender is owned by a company based in Latvia - an EU member state, but the ship's registry is in Cambodia - a FOC state. I for one will be voting NO to the Treaty of Lisbon in the forthcoming Irish referendum as the EU institutions are not looking after the rights of European seafarers. There are many other reasons of course for my No vote but workers rights have seriously fallen down the EU's priority list in recent years.
Another thing, in some recent coverage of the Defender debacle, reference was made to this being "the first stand taken by a local labour force in Ireland in support of seafarers" (RTE News). This is patently untrue and Irish dockers have supported foreign crews on many occasions when they were in dispute with their employers, not least the dockers of Cork Port who have an excellent record of solidarity towards their fellow workers, Irish or otherwise. Whether it was the striking British Miners in 1983, the Liverpool Dockers in the 1990s or Latvian seafarers in 2008, Cork dockers were never short of helping out and often put their hands in their own pocket to help out fellow workers.