MARITIME workers around Australia today paused to pay tribute to former Maritime Union of Australia national secretary John Coombs, who died last week aged 81.

As his funeral took place this morning, ports across the nation saw container cranes raised and a minutes’ silence in honour of his contribution to the maritime industry and those working on the waterfront.

At the conclusion of the moment of silence, ships, cranes, and waterfront machinery sounded horns as a final tribute.

Mr Coombs was an instrumental figure in the broader union movement, but he is most widely recognised and remembered for his leadership role in the 1998 Patrick waterfront dispute.

The MUA paid tribute to Mr Coombs in a statement, remembering his enormous contribution to maritime workers.

“His determination to stand shoulder to shoulder with waterside workers and resist the sacking of workers by Patricks in 1998 made industrial relations history and elevated John to a national figure,” the union said.

“For the MUA and the wider union movement, his leadership energised a generation of workers and activists to resist the destructive forces of capital and reaffirm their commitment to collective action.”

MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin remembered Mr Coombs for his vision and influence in the union movement.

 “John has left an indelible mark on both our union and the Australian aspirational way of life for a fairer, more just, and economically effective nation,” he said.

“He was tough and courageous in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and was a lightning rod for galvanising actions against injustice and elitism, but also for aspirations of a genuine vision for Australian political, social, economic and industrial rights based on access and true process.”

Along with John’s family, friends, and comrades, the MUA will be organising a memorial tribute to the life and work of Mr Coombs.

The date of the memorial service is yet to be announced.

Sounding of horns for Mr Coombs at Port Botany