Concerns with port takeover threat

The Maritime Union of New Zealand has warned against the takeover of New Zealand ports after shipping giant COSCO announced its interest in buying into New Zealand ports this week.

The Chinese state owned multinational corporation COSCO is one of the world’s largest shipping lines.

Maritime Union spokesperson Victor Billot says the Union is opposed to handing control of ports over to global operators.

Mr Billot says that the takeover of New Zealand ports by global operators will lead to “ports of convenience”.

He says there is ongoing pressure for privatization, attacks on Unions and casualization, in “ports of convenience” around the world that are dominated by global operators.

Mr Billot says the Union is very concerned by trends overseas under free trade agreements for employers to bring in short-term, casual labour across borders.

“This process is one where multinational employers use workers against workers to attack wages and conditions.”

Mr Billot says problems were already present in “flag of convenience”, and some national flagged, shipping and fishing operations in New Zealand waters.

He says that Chinese state corporations have publicly stated in Australia they are interested in controlling the entire logistics chain from mines to rail to port to shipping, including the supply of labour for such operations.

Mr Billot says any rationalization of New Zealand ports must be planned and done in the interests of New Zealand.

“The takeover of an individual port by a shipping multinational could destabilize the entire industry and result in port rationalization being driven by mindless competition and market monopoly rather than a planned approach to benefit New Zealand.”

He says New Zealand as a trading nation should maintain control of its own maritime transport operations as far as practical.

New Zealand ports were largely owned by local government and returned profits to local communities rather than to overseas shareholders.

Problems with parochialism and duplication of infrastructure must be dealt with by a Government-led national ports plan, not sell offs which would create more chaos and instability in the industry.

The Maritime Union supported the Keep Our Port Public campaign in 2006 when global operator Hutchinson failed to gain a controlling stake in Ports of Lyttelton.

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