Ferry boss in weight attack

THE director of a ferry company which operates from Harwich has caused controversy after claiming many of the people applying for jobs as sailors are “not fit for the job” and “overweight.”

The comments by Pim de Lange, Stena Line’s director for the North Sea area, have caused anger among some people in the historic port town.

Former Harwich mayor Les Double last night called for Mr de Lange to apologise and retract what he said.

The opinions were aired amid industrial tensions between the company and the RMT Union which has been in dispute over conditions of pay and service and Stena’s use of Filipinos working at Harwich.

Mr de Lange told the EADT the company struggled to find young, fit people willing to work at sea. However, he said comments attributed to him in a Dutch newspaper that Stena’s existing British workers were “quite fat and covered in tattoos” were taken out of context.

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But Mr de Lange said agency workers for the ships were often not up to the job.

He said: “It was completely out of context – I have never talked to any paper about the existing crew – it was about new crews in the future. Young people don’t want to go to sea and it is the same in Holland. People who are qualified are hard to get.

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“I said, in the future, when you want to get sailors they are overweight and not fit for the job.

“That is mainly England – it was not about the Harwich workforce – I am not worried about it.

“You do not get young, fit people wanting these jobs – people need to be fit for these jobs – that is the bad thing about it.

“The main thing is that fit people don’t want to apply for the jobs. Young people do not want to go to sea any more – they don’t want to be away from home.”

Mr de Lange said he had e-mailed the workforce to clarify that he had not been criticising them.

The comments came as the RMT balloted for strike action over use of Filipino crew on the new superferry, the Stena Britannica.

However, Mr Lange revealed an agreement had been reached on Friday with the union and said there would be no industrial action.

“There will be no industrial action – we have an agreement,” he insisted.

Mr Double, a town, district and county councillor, said he was concerned about the comments.

“I think he needs to apologise,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate timing when the secretary of state for transport and his chief executive are coming for the naming ceremony of the new boat next month and there he is making these comments.

“I guess he did not think it would get back to England.”

Stena Line is set to launch the Britannica within weeks. She will join Stena Hollandica, launched in May, on the North Sea route from Harwich to the Hook of Holland.

Together the ships represent Stena Line’s largest-ever investment of more than �375million.

The RMT union had called for talks with Stena Line to settle a dispute over jobs onboard the new superferries although a strike ballot over the threat of redundancies was withdrawn earlier this month after Stena Line guaranteed that no British workers would lose their jobs.

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