The Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport
July 10, 2019
Dear Minister Garneau:
RE: Worker Safety at the Port of Montreal
We are writing to you in regards to an urgent matter affecting the health and safety of seafarers working in the Port of Montreal. It has recently come to our attention by our partners from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU), that seafarers on cargo-container vessels at the Port of Montreal are engaged in the dangerous practice of ‘lashing’ – that is unsecuring containers while vessels are not in port. This puts workers at serious risk of harm, injury, and even death.
Just this past May, Second Officer Ravindu Lakmal Pieris Telge from Sri Lanka was tragically killed after falling overboard while unlashing containers on board the Singapore-flagged Maersk Patras in the St. Lawrence Seaway. His body has yet to be recovered. The ITF has highlighted that Montreal is the only port in the world where ships’ crews are asked to lash and unlash containers while ships are still in motion to and from the port.
Unifor fully supports the call of the International Transport Workers’ Federation for Transport Canada and the Port of Montreal to ban the dangerous practice of lashing. Unsecuring containers is work that must only be performed by experienced and trained port and dockworkers once a vessel has safely docked. We understand that this issue has been brought before you and your staff previously along with calls to take action. However, no meaningful steps have been taken thus far.
We urge Transport Canada to intervene immediately to end and ban this practice of lashing along the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Port of Montreal. Workers’ safety and lives are literally on the line and further tragic accidents and deaths must be prevented. We look forward to hearing back from you promptly on this matter and we thank you in advance for your time.
Unifor National President