Neither enter nor exit: seafarers complain about time-limited corridors at the port of Arkhangelsk

Seafarers  have to wait at the checkpoints of the Arkhangelsk Sea Commercial  Port for the opportunity to enter or exit.  The employees of JSC "ASCP" explain these new requirements by the Order issued by the management in this  April , which sets  narrow time corridors for the crew members to go ashore and return  on board. Now they can do this only from 07:30 till 8:00, from 13:00 till 14:00, from 19:30 till 20:00 and from 01:00 till 02:00. A similar time frame (with the exception of night time) was set for supplying ships. These restrictions cause natural discontent among seafarers cause  they can't spend their off time as they want  and  have to stay on board.

At the end of last month a member of the trade union sent an individual appeal to the Northern Territorial Organization of the Seafarers' Union of Russia (NTO SUR) concerning these new rules at the check point  of the cargo handling port area "Economia". The seafarer asked to check the legality of such time-limited corridors. At the same time the SUR representatives received a number of  appeals from other crew members with complaints about those restrictions.

Although the time restrictions  on entry and exit have provoced much discontent among the seafarers it seems that the port authorities don't intend to change anything. So, just a few days ago the SUR primary organization at JSC Northern Shipping Company (NSC) received an appeal, in which the crew of the NSC- owned vessel Johann Makhmastal  expressed their indignation: the seafarers complained that they  had to waste their working and off time while  waiting  at the check-point of cargo-handling port area "Economia" for hours.

Such situation disrupts the work of  crews of ships staying at the port. Eemployees trigger conflicts referring to a certain order that does not apply to our work and does not affect the security of the port and port facilities in any way, which violates the ISPS convention, - the appeal stated. The seafarers have added that in an emergency or uncertain situation it would be impossible to get on board the vessel promptly, the onshore specialists cannot come on board on time, supply and maintenance are late.

The SUR Northern Territorial Organization consider these restrictions as violation of seafarers' legal right to leave the working place in their free time. Besides, the grounds for the restrictions imposed by the port authorities refers to a change in the work schedule of  port staff  and not the objective impossibility to ensure entry and exit at any time associated with the peculiarities of the port operation. Such internal affairs of the ASCP should not affect seafarers.

- In fact, this is a form of direct restriction of  personal freedom of citizens of the Russian Federation as well as an obstacle to the performance of professional duties, noted Sergei Portenko, the Chairman of the SUR primary organization at JSC Northern Shipping Company. - Following the first appeals from the   seafarers about a month ago, the SUR Northern Territorial Organization addressed  the Arkhangelsk Transport Prosecutor's Office concerning violation of the law and ask to carry out investigation and take appropriate measures.

In it's appeal the Union, in particular, outlined that in the Order the port authorities didn't take into account that neither the working hours of  port staff nor their change by the employer can be a legal foundation for restricting the right of people who are employees of another legal entity to leave place of work in their  free time and to spent it at their own discretion. A vessel, like a factory or other enterprise in Russia, is not a prison, the Union stressed.

In addition, the SUR Northern Territorial Organization  noted that  safety regulations conserning movement of people and transport are in place at ports all over the world but they provide other means.

The Union has received a response on it's appeal. The Prosecutors have not found any violations in the actions of port officials and do not consider it is necessary to take procuratorial response measures. The Department has explained that the introduction of time-restricted corridors for  entry and exit of seafarers  are the measures aimed to prevent the coronavirus spread and are  introduced in  accordance with the relevant recommendations of Rospotrebnadzor and the relevant  Order 292 of  JSC NSC  On strengthening of preventing measures against a new coronavirus infection from last October. 

The clause 3.1 of the Order  directly concerns the crew members of vessels engaged in technological interaction with the port. It prohibits persons from entering vehicles that are in the port without  operational need in order to minimize infection with COVID-19, as well as to reduce the number of contacts with potential infected persons.

In case there is a need to execute operational activity on vehicles the enter should be agreed with the port security authority. Time-restricted  corridors for departure / arrival from / to the vessel of the crew members at the port have been set as following: from 07:30 till 08:00, from 12:00 till 13:00, from 16:30 till 17:00 and from 19:30 till 20:00, " the Prosecutors' Office said in it's response. According to the Department, later by order No. 122 these time frames were changed to those that are in force today. 

The Union has not satisfied with this answer. First of all, Sergei Portenko notes that the reference to the previous Order containing measures to prevent coronavirus infection at the port does not appear in the April document, where only "a change in the work schedule of the Operating Service staff" is indicated as the reason for the restrictions. In his opinion it was necessary to mention that Order there. Trying to clearify the legality of such order, we, in fact, received a refusal from the prosecutors to take appropriate measures. The Prosecutor's Office in their response refers to the arguments which do not appear in the text of the Order and there is no hint at them, he said.

- In the context of preventing the spread of coronavirus these  measures look very controversial either: on the contrary, such time restrictions lead to  crowds  waiting  to enter or exit  the port, - added Sergei Portenko. - We still persist these newly imposed restrictions violate the rights of seafarers and, in addition, complicate  the operations  of shipping companies. In this regard we will review  the possibility to apply on this issue  to Rosmorrechflot, the Russian Chamber of Shipping and the Russian Government.