Britain’s biggest union, Unite, has today (30 January) denounced the plans by one of the UK’s major companies to allow a ship named after a Nazi war criminal to operate in British waters.
The ship, which is the world’s largest vessel, and is to be deployed by Shell on the decommissioning of three oil platforms, is named after a Waffen SS officer who fought for the Nazis on the eastern front and was later imprisoned for war crimes.
Unite has written to Shell as a matter of urgency to demand that the vessel be renamed or stepped down, and is calling upon the UK government to intervene too.
The ship, the Pieter Schelte, is owned by Allseas Group SA, the Swiss shipping company that secured the contact from Shell UK Ltd to carry out work on three Brent platforms situated on the UK continental shelf.
Unite is urging the prime minister and ministers with key responsibilities to step in to make it clear to both companies that unless there is a change of name this vessel will not operate in UK waters. In both the Westminster and Scottish parliaments, motions have been tabled calling upon Shell to act.
In a letter to Shell’s chief executive Ben van Beurden, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner writes: “As you can understand, this vessel’s name has caused widespread outrage here in the UK and wider afield. It is a matter of record that Schelte fought on the Russian front for the Wehrmacht. He was later recalled to be part of the East Company, working for the SS in the occupied east. His role, among many other activities, was to provide labour for the occupation. Schelte promised 2,000 Dutch volunteers - when they were not forthcoming, he commandeered 4,000 for forced labour.
“The Shell Group proudly states that ‘We set high standards of performance and ethical behaviour that we apply internationally. The Shell general business principles, code of conduct and code of ethics help everyone at Shell act according to our core values of honesty, integrity and respect for people.'
“Shell must surely understand then that the name of this ship confers honour to a man, a war criminal, who brought misery and cruelty to the world. It is an affront to the memory of those who died in the war, an affront to those who fought to free the world of Nazi tyranny, and clearly an affront to Shell’s own values.
“This week we commemorate the Holocaust and crimes committed against humanity during the war. We also note that this week marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Quite rightly, as a society we say ‘never again’ and that we will ‘never forget’.
“Unite will never forget, which is why our members are extremely angry that this vessel is scheduled to operate in UK water and call at UK ports.”
Those who wish to support this action can sign this petition.
Early Day Motions will also be tabled on Monday both at Westminster (EDM 749) and in the Scottish parliament (S4M – 12204)
For further information contact Douglas Beattie or Ashraf Choudhury in the Unite Press Office on 020 3371 2060 or 07980 224761.
Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.