Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Zim Ship Blocked from Entering Oakland Port

By Mark Edward Nero

A Zim Shipping vessel that was scheduled to unload at the Port of Oakland on Sept. 27 instead departed for Southern California after it was blocked by a group protesting in solidarity with Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip who are directly affected by a recent wave of violence in the region.

Protesters began picketing around 5 am to block the ship from unloading its cargo at Berth 57, but it was actually non-action by longshore workers that caused the Hong Kong-flagged Zim Shanghai cargo vessel to depart for another location.

According to the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, its members would not unload the vessel because of safety concerns. The protestors were said to have blocked ILWU Local 10 and Local 34 longshore workers from driving into the terminal during the workers’ shifts at the port’s SSA terminal.

“Longshoremen and clerks trying to report to work were threatened physically at some points of ingress and their personal vehicles were physically blocked,” a statement released by the ILWU about the incident said in part. “As such, all personnel stood-by outside of the demonstration perimeters for health and safety purposes.”

SSA released all personnel from work at about 8 pm, according to the union, while the Zim Shanghai set sail for the Port of Los Angeles.

The organizers of the protest, a group calling itself “Block the Boat,” has previously targeted vessels operated by Zim, which is Israel’s biggest cargo shipping company and is 32 percent owned by the country’s government.

In August, protesters kept the Zim Piraeus cargo ship from being unloaded for days at the Port of Oakland when longshore workers refused to cross picket lines. Despite its reluctance to tangle with the protestors, however, the union has insisted it is not collaborating with the resistance movement.

According to union communications director Craig Merrilees, the ILWU is not among the groups organizing the protests, and the leadership and membership of the ILWU have taken no position on the Israel/Gaza conflict.