ITF: Lashing While Under Way Led to Maersk Patras Casualty

Maersk Patras (file image courtesy Maersk)

By The Maritime Executive 05-24-2019 06:20:26

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), which opposes the use of crew to lash cargo, has called on the Canadian government to ban foreign seafarers from undertaking lashing work in the St. Lawrence Seaway after the fatal accident aboard the Maersk Patras last weekend. 

The Patras' second officer, Ravindu Lakmal Pieris Telge, fell overboard at about 0930 AM on Sunday. Despite an extensive search and recovery operation, his body has not been found. 

According to ITF, its inquiries suggest that the officer fell overboard while lashing, and crewmembers reported that he was the only member of the work party who was not wearing fall protection. 

“This is a tragic situation this seafarers’ family, friends and his fellow crew members on board the Patras, and sadly our worst fears about the dangers of seafarers lashing cargo on the Saint Lawrence have been realised," said ITF Canadian coordinator Peter Lahay. “Early reports indicated that this incident occurred while dropping a pilot ladder, however after speaking to the crew and investigating further, we’ve determined that’s not the case. This seafarer was handling a four-meter lashing bar, almost half his weight, when he fell overboard.”

ITF - in Canada and abroad - has long argued that lashing should only be carried out by dockers. The union asserts that the work is inherently dangerous and should not be undertaken by potentially fatigued crewmembers. “The difficult and hazardous work of lashing and securing containers should only be performed by those with the training and experience to do it – dockers,” said Lahay.

Montreal is the only Canadian port that does not reserve lashing work for dockers, according to Rob Ashton, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union of Canada. ITF and Montreal's Syndicat des Debardeurs (SCFP) have sought to reclaim lashing for dockers at Montreal since at least 2017.