May 16, 2018

Two of three ships delayed at the Port of Toledo by a labor dispute left the dock Wednesday after their owner arranged a work-around to avoid needing harbor pilots for the initial part of the maneuver.

The freighters Federal Champlain and Federal Kumano were towed away from the general-cargo dock as “dead ships” by tugboats until they were about 500 feet away from the dock, then another tug delivered pilots to the vessels so they could continue their voyages to their next ports, said Marc Gagnon, director of government affairs for Montreal-based Fednav.

The Champlain had been delayed for about 10 days, and the Kumano for a shorter time, when the pilots — required by regulation to guide overseas vessels through unfamiliar harbors and channels — refused to cross a picket line set up by International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1982 as part of a long-running dispute with Midwest Terminals of Toledo International, the stevedore company operating the dock under contract with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

While the Kumano headed downriver toward Maumee Bay and its next call in Sarnia, Ont., the Champlain sailed up the Maumee River to the ADM grain elevator on Miami Street, where it was to take on a soybean cargo destined for Italy, Mr. Gagnon said.

Another ship, the freighter Reggeborg, remained at the port authority dock Wednesday, also waylaid by the pilots’ refusal to pass the picket line, which Local 1982 said was “informational.”

Alex Johnson, president of Midwest Terminals, said his company was unaware of arrangements Fednav had made for its ships to depart other than having received notice that dock workers were needed to assist them in doing so.

Midwest and Local 1982 have been embroiled in a long-standing and complex conflict laced with allegations of racial discrimination and unfair labor practices. Having received decertification petitions from a majority of Local 1982’s members, the company no longer officially recognizes the union, while the union has challenged those petitions as being the product of Midwest’s allegedly unfair practices.

Mr. Gagnon said Fednav had advised its owner, Royal Wagenborg of The Netherlands, of the means it had used to move its ships. An inquiry to Royal Wagenborg yielded no response by Tuesday evening.

The Fednav spokesman said his company was still calculating its costs associated with the incident, which included hiring a tug to come from Cleveland to assist with the departure maneuver as well as the value of the two ships’ lost time.

But it was, he said, “an extremely expensive delay for something that is not our case,” and until the specter of similar delay is lifted, Fednav will have to think carefully before booking any cargoes to or from the Midwest-managed dock.

“I think it’s fair to say every ship owner will hesitate” to serve that part of the Toledo port, Mr. Gagnon said.

Source: Toledo Blade

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