Ships cited for labor violations in Seward

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2001

ANCHORAGE - The Immigration and Naturalization Service is citing cruise ships for allowing foreign nationals to handle cargo at the port in Seward.

Rules require those jobs go to American longshoremen or others legally permitted to work in the United States.

U.S. immigration law forbids foreign aliens from unlashing or moving cargo once a ship is tied up at a U.S. dock, said Mike Conway, INS deputy director in Alaska. Exceptions exist for moving hazardous materials and in a few other circumstances. Longshore work is not reserved for union members but must be done by U.S. nationals or foreigners with green cards, according to immigration and union officials.

The union tipped off the INS last year.

"This summer alone we've lost 12,000 man hours. That's about half a million dollars that should have stayed in Seward," said Carl Norman, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 200.

Union longshoremen make $28.50 an hour, said Jamie Rose, a union member. Overtime amounts to time and a half, or $42.75 an hour. Crew aboard cruise ships usually make between $1 and $1.50 an hour, plus room and board, Norman said.

"They know they're being exploited," Rose said.

Princess Cruises paid a $5,500 fine after INS agents discovered foreign crew handling baggage on the Sea Princess last summer. The violation occurred during an inspection on July 21, 2000.

The federal agency is proposing an $11,000 fine for unauthorized longshore work this summer aboard the Royal Caribbean ship, Rhapsody of the Seas, and the Ryndam, owned by Holland America, an INS report states.

The incidents involving Princess, Royal Caribbean and Holland America took place at the dock in Seward where luggage is loaded and off-loaded from vessels that begin their voyages in Vancouver. The ships stop in Seward to let northbound passengers off and to pick up travelers heading south.

Bob Berto, president of Cruise Line Agencies, said the union contract spells out the number of longshoremen needed to handle baggage on the ships. He said he has no reason to think the contract is being violated and he's unaware of foreign aliens doing longshore work.

"There's a lot of misunderstanding and confusion about this issue. We have a good relationship with the INS," Berto said.

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