VICTORIAN Police have thrown the book at 13 anti-Israel protesters who cut fences to access VICT at Webb Dock, Melbourne early on Tuesday [30 April] and chained themselves to the booms of two STS gantries 60 metres above ground.

Officers, including members of the Search and Rescue Squad, responded to reports of protesters allegedly scaling cranes and chaining themselves to crane access stairs at the terminal about 0730. Police removed the protesters from the cranes and they were arrested.

VICT CEO Bruno Porchietto has warmly welcomed VicPol’s action in charging all 13 with common law public nuisance, hinder police, trespass, criminal damage and unauthorised entry of a maritime transport facility. They have been bailed to appear before a Magistrates’ Court at a later date.

“Victoria Police respects the right for peaceful and lawful protests, however there is no place for anyone wanting to deliberately disrupt the community and economy,” a spokesperson said.

“Today’s incident resulted in the port being closed for eight hours which in turn limited the ability of those working in the area to make a living.”

The protesters were again targeting a ZIM-operated vessel, Danube, which ironically had been delayed and was not actually at the berth.

As with previous protests the interlopers live-streamed their activities but there was a notable reduction in mainstream coverage of the ‘event’.

Mr Porchietto told DCN yesterday he lauded “the commendable and rapid action from VicPol to remove the protesters with the utmost care for everyone’s safety”.

Responding to waterfront observers’ questioning of the effectiveness of VICT’s security, given its regular targeting by pro-Palestine protesters, Mr Porchietto said:

“Allow me to shed some light on the facts: the protesters cut a big hole in our fence, they did not scale it. Detection was immediate. We have more security cameras than Patrick and DPW combined. Their entry point was close enough to the cranes to allow them to quickly reach them. They did not carry heavy equipment, they could easily run.

“Police were alerted immediately and responded very quickly. Our own security could not have stopped them. I can assure you that there is no terminal in Australia with enough security manpower to stop 13 people (who by the way, cannot be hurt or attacked by a private security guard).

“All operations stopped immediately, thanks to our full automation. This prevented anyone to get hurt.”

Police was able to surround and control the protesters in no time, he said. “The process of removing and arresting the trespassers was very long since they were all chained with multiple locks to the cranes structure. As mentioned, they were very careful not to hurt anyone in the process. This takes a long time.

“I hope this is helpful and enough to clarify that our security does not have any major flaws.”

A Port of Melbourne spokesperson noted that that each terminal facility/tenant has their own security, in addition to overall port security provided by the port.

“As landlord, PoM’s obligation is to ensure the safe and secure operation of the port and maintain the movement of goods and services for Victorian consumers,” the spokesperson said.