A shipping insider has claimed that businesses have incurred losses in the multiple millions of dollars amid multiple disputes at several major Victorian ports.
On Monday afternoon, pro-Palestinian protesters blocked the Victorian International Container Terminal (VICT) and the Port of Melbourne where an Israeli-owned shipping company, ZIM, has been trying to unload cargo.
Protesters have succeeded in their goal of preventing the ship from unloading and forcing it to anchor in the bay.
Victoria Police told news.com.au that they had arrested 10 people on trespass and criminal damage charges.
Monday was the first time the Victorian International Container Terminal requested that police help kick the protesters off the premises.
“I work in the freight industry and we currently have one effective port in Melbourne now that VICT has been blocked by protest,” the insider wrote, according to messages shared by 3AW’s Jacqueline Felgate.
“All of these issues combined stretching into next week will have (a) very debilitating impact,” the shipping employee said.
“There should be rules you can’t shut down major infrastructure in Melbourne. The police wouldn’t put up with this if the blocked major roads in the CBD. This (is) costing business(es) millions of dollars.”
Victoria Police said protesters’ activities had “escalated in recent days. So too has our police response”.
They reportedly used pepper spray and had more than 200 police at the terminal at the peak of the protests.
In a statement, the group behind the port protests, Free Palestine Melbourne, said its aim was to stop workers from unloading cargo ships.
The activist group wrote that it was “blocking worker shifts from entering the terminal and stranding four ships with 30,000 containers”.
Police said they had offered to assist workers at the VICT and the Port of Melbourne to enter the terminals “to and from work via alternate routes”. At first their offers were declined but on Sunday afternoon, employees took them up on their offer.
The industry insider pointed out that this is just the latest setback for Australia’s shipping ports, amid industrial action as workers push for better pay in several major cities across the country.
Since October, a dispute between the union and Australia’s second-largest port operator DP World has been going on in what has been labelled one of the most significant strike on the nation’s ports in decades.
DP World runs container terminals in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle.
Last week, Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke accused DP World of waging a political and media campaign against the Maritime Union instead of negotiating a new workplace deal with its workers.
Led by the Maritime Union of Australia, the protected industrial action has included 24 hour strikes and work stoppages, causing a backlog of some 45,000 containers across the four terminals and threatening to exacerbate the cost of living crunch.
– With NCA Newswire