As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine strains already-disrupted global supply networks, dockworkers around the world are pressing to broaden prohibitions on Russian ships from their ports, potentially blacklisting over 1,700 boats connected to the country. Following the United Kingdom’s decision to refuse entry to Russian commerce ships as part of a widening array of sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship, longshoreman unions in Canada, the United States, and Australia are taking the steps on their own or pushing their governments to do so.
“Workers around the world, including hundreds of dockworkers, are defiant in their resistance to Russia’s invasion, showing sympathy with the people of Ukraine and scorn for Putin’s aggression,” said Paddy Crumlin, President of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
The shipping industry that served as a lifeline to economies through the pandemic is joining the global backlash against Putin’s military offensive by severing trade links. Almost all of the largest seaborne container carriers — with China’s Cosco Shipping Co. being a notable exception — are publicly refusing to book Russian cargo.
The world’s two largest container lines, Mediterranean Shipping Co. and A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, have blocked bookings for Russian freight, with Maersk warning customers that the wider ramifications will have “a global impact, not only restricted to commerce with Russia.” The International Longshore & Warehouse Union, based in San Francisco, said in a tweet on Thursday that its members “will not load or unload any Russian goods coming into or going out of all 29 U.S. West Coast ports.”
Last month, dockworkers in the United Kingdom announced that they would refuse to load and unload Russian-owned or controlled vessels in British ports. The Australian union representing dockworkers and seafarers wants Prime Minister Scott Morrison to follow suit and join other governments in sanctioning Russia. A union representative said it would be difficult for members on the ground to enforce an embargo without the government’s cooperation.
In New Zealand, the Maritime Union of New Zealand and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union joined last week to hand letters of protest to the captains of Russian-flagged and owned vessels coming into the country’s ports.