Monday, March 30, 2015

Check out my Yas Yas !

I was sent these pictures some time ago, from a friend of the site in New Zealand, who was working on this beautiful ship, currently named Yas (ex-Swift 141). Always neat to see these engine rooms - a far cry from the crowded dank engine rooms of the numerous tugs I've worked on... BTW, she has 21000 hp installed.

 
 

You can read more about Yas' specs here and see some pictures here; incidentally, there is one shot of her at her builder's yard in Dubai, with BC Ferries' PacificCat in the background.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Bob might finally retire; WMI changes ownership

Captain Robert CE Kitching, President, Western Maritime Institute

Western Maritime Institute’s parking lot was full to the brim last week when I went to visit. The institute's founder, Capt. Bob Kitching states that he’s even had to find parking out on the road on some days. Capt Kitching founded Western Maritime Institute (WMI) back in 2000, on the site of a surplus elementary school, in a semi rural area, south of Nanaimo, BC, on Vancouver Island.

Inside courtyard at WMI
Since those early days, with a steadfast vision and a tremendous amount of work, not to mention personal capital, Bob and his team, have turned this humble elementary school into Canada’s one stop shop for effective maritime career training, a full parking lot is a great testimonial to their success.

The school features a full suite of Marine Emergency Duty (MED) training and facilities, onsite, including the fire training ship mock-up, and a lifeboat davit and tank. In 2013, a new student housing facility was also added; with the airport nearby, it's arguably one of the best features for us professional mariners looking to do short term upgrade training.

Student housing block at WMI
I was a bit sad when Capt Kitching mentioned that he was finally going to retire. Don’t get me wrong the man certainly deserves it. At a time when most of his contemporaries are well into their retirement years, especially after such a lengthy and diversified career at sea and in maritime education, and a sizable outlay of his retirement fund into WMI, who would blame him. But the thought of losing Capt Kitching’s drive and zeal… really, advocacy for Canadian seafaring to a certain extent, is worrisome to me.

Retirement for Capt Kitching comes in the form of Western Maritime Institute, and all of its facilities and programs, now coming under the roof of Fraser Education Inc, effective March 2015. Capt Kitching will remain the President of WMI to shepherd a smooth transition to the new owners.

One of the classrooms at WMI
Currently offering Transport Canada safety mandate courses and deck officer certification, there is a fresh appetite to expand the program offerings, and the related facilities, with a focus on engineering programs. Being well received within the community, the school has ample grounds to expand so this is very exciting news for professional mariners, and in general, for the future of Marine Engineering professionals in Canada.

I have a feeling Capt Kitching will not just retire “overnight”, but before he puts his feet up, I express my admiration of his success and appreciation of his hard work developing an accessible maritime training facility that benefits professional seafarers, as well as nurture budding careers. Thank you. I take comfort that his legacy will be felt for many years to come in Canada’s maritime community.

Here is the official press release from WMI regarding the change of ownership...
Fraser Education Inc. acquires Western Maritime Institute Inc. 
Robert Prendergast, CEO of Fraser Education, is extremely pleased to announce the completion of the acquisition of Western Maritime Institute. WMI is the first acquisition for Fraser and is the largest private maritime college in Canada.
Captain Bob Kitching, the founder and owner of WMI, will remain in his position as the President of the Maritime Division of Fraser Education. Captain Kitching is a Master Mariner and prior to establishing WMI was the Dean of BCIT's Pacific Marine Training Institute.
 Some background on WMI
Western Maritime Institute was established in 2000 and moved to its current location in Ladysmith in 2007, and has since added a campus in Steveston (Richmond), while continuing to “bring the classroom” to other locations from Haida Gwaii to Inuvik.

WMI offers courses from one-day MED A3, to courses leading to the Master, 500 Gross Tons Certificate of Competency. We continue to extend our course offering each year and are looking forward to introducing a wider range of engineering courses in the near future.

Accreditations: Transport Canada, Industry Canada, Private Career Training Institutes Agency (PCTIA), BC Education Quality Assurance, DNV GL.
The facilities and courses can be viewed at www.maritimeed.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/westernmaritimeinstitutecanada and Twitter: https://twitter.com/WesternMaritime
Capt Kitching, showing off the newly constructed student housing in 2013

If you are in the area, I do encourage you to drop by and visit the school and their facilities, say hi to the always approachable Captain Bob Kitching. You can find my previous post and articles on WMI from this site search result... being in my neighborhood, I've had a few comments over the years, and its been a real treat to see the development. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Winter ship rituals

Ocean Intrepid breaks ice, preparing for the
arrival of Oceanex Avalon in Montreal
As most know, the winters in Canada can be somewhat challenging. In the Great Lakes area, the winter of 2013-2014 was particularly good example of that statement, with record ice covering all of the Great Lakes and their inter-connecting rivers, well past the normal “ice season”. Some ships on Lake Superior even experienced breaking ice in late May, and into June!

In winter, keeping the St Lawrence Seaway’s numerous locks and tight navigational channels moving becomes all the more challenging. Operating the gates of the locks becomes difficult, with ice building up the sensitive machinery and their tight fittings. As a result, the Seaway authority shuts down until such time that the operation of the locks, and navigation of the channels can be reliable and safe.

When the seaway shuts down, it effectively shuts down nearly all of shipping on the great lakes and its connecting rivers. Typically, the seaway shuts down in late December, 26-31, and reopens in late
March, 18-25. The closure typically means that all commercial vessel traffic cannot go further up the St Lawrence River than Montreal, and those ships caught in Lake Ontario, stay there. Some ships may still operate on Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Erie but traffic is curtailed considerably due to weather and ice conditions, but mostly because of limited cargo opportunities.  

Canadian Coast Guard ship clears a path under the Quebec Bridge
for a tanker bound for Montreal
If a “salty” or deep sea ship cannot make it out of the system by the shut down date, they are faced with staying put for the winter, or face high fees to open the seaway, especially to accommodate them through; all very expensive options for an international ship owner.

Many "lakers" will switch from active service into "winter lay-up”, or “winter works” period. Winter work is a necessary part of keeping Canada’s aging fleet going. Pushed hard the rest of the year, the old ships needs considerable care to make them pass the regulator’s scrutiny in early March. Dry dockings, surveys, steelwork, machinery rebuilds fill the “Winter Work List” of many vessels. The manpower at the local repair outfits is stretched thin during these times and finding elusive parts or skilled labour for old machinery is a big challenge.

Pulling shafts on a tug in
Iles aux Coudres, Quebec
Shipyard time and heavy maintenance is always a challenge, but to do it in winter is an exercise that is an exceptional feat. It still baffles the mind how so much technical work can be accomplished in -25 degrees Celsius, with strong winds and the resultant mind numbing wind chills.

I remember having a discussion about the application of hull paint at the Ocean Group shipyard in Iles aux Coudres, Quebec. The weather was brutal cold, but we had a schedule to keep, so we had to contact the paint manufacturer to find out how low a temperature we could still apply their product; with the outside temperature at -21C degrees we would be fine to paint, barely.

Not all ships need extensive work, and often the ships are winterized, and tied up to berths all over the Great Lakes ports, Port Colborne, Montreal, Hamilton, etc. These ships are securely moored and winterized; the crew is signed off for the winter.

End of wintering in Montreal; free in a few hours,
clear water and an open seaways beckons
Many crew members end up in the unemployment rolls, whilst a few take on the lonely task of becoming the "Ship Keeper". In many ports, the laid up ship must have one person on board to monitor and check the ship at all times. Typically this is reserved for the lowest rank of the engine room team – or the otherwise single person, able to withstand themselves for two long months of complete isolation, locked in a motionless, creepy hulk of a ship.

Once the second week of March rolls around, the tired shipkeeper can starts to feel normal again, with the arrival of some crew members. The crew members are there to prepare the ship for the upcoming sailing season. This period is often referred to as “fit out”. The engineering teams are stressed at this time, wrapping up the winter work list maintenance projects, or otherwise reactivating the old bones of a great dame.

At this time of year, regulators are overwhelmed with surveys and certification exercises and a great deal of paperwork is shuffled around. There is usually a constant parade of officials and certification exercises on the ship.

A picture of Port Weller's empty
navigational channel, while maintenance
is carried out on the locks
All this flurry of activity comes to a climax in mid March, and like racing horses at the starting line, there is a palpable panting, rearing to go feeling going around the ship. The office has the cargo orders handed out, the chief mate has final gear to stow away, and engineers have bunkered large amounts of fuel, lubes, and six month worth of filters. Cookie is stowing the large grub order, and restocking the shelves, scavenged by the ship keeper. The ship keepers, has been signed off, to clumsily rejoin society, while in the mess, jovial talk of sailors catching up like some old church ladies, carries on.

With the reopening of the Seaway in late march, the “winter lay-up” ends, and that year’s Great Lakes Shipping Season begins. The first ship through various locks, in the “Spring”, is usually well celebrated by numerous organizations, garnering a crowd, and the media, to cover this special event. The milestone is usually marked by the awarding of a Top Hat or a Cane or some kind of symbol, celebrating the end of another long Canadian winter.

M.V. Equinox's Captain Ross Armstrong, first ship
of the 2014 season in the Welland Canal credit
Except for the above, all pictures taken by Martin Leduc

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

So, how was your holiday season?

...from interwebs
I'm still alive! You wouldn't know it by the posts on this site but I am. Last year was just super busy personally and professionally, which left me little time to dedicate to the blog. Generally, each original post usually takes about 5-6 hrs to produce, believe it or not, which has been a challenge to fit into my schedule, already in perpetual flux.

The constant bouncing around between ships all over Eastern and Central Canada has not help either. It seems I have a flexible personality and even more flexible set of skills that are in high demand. Unfortunately, it leads to a vicarious lifestyle with little predictability - life of a modern sailor I guess.

Here's my holiday schedule: flew to St John's from Vancouver to join one boat, less than 24 hrs later, back to Toronto, to join another boat, for "a three or four day job". One week later, Christmas morning, weather a sudden and violent windstorm on Lake Ontario, getting tossed around like laundry in a washing machine.

Christmas dinner, lunch really (only meal of the day), was at Pearson airport, at the Mill Street, on my way to St John's. Two days on my first boat, I get dispatched to another boat, for "a two day job" up the Newfoundland coast. ...one week later, on New Year's Day, I am back on first boat in St John's.

A little less than a week later, I get sent to Hamilton on boat number four. Needles to say, I am looking forward to seeing the end of this six week hitch, in just under two weeks.

I don;t foresee much free time in the near future, but I hope to put up some mental morsel for you to contemplate soon. In the mean time, Happy New Year.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Sixes, a quick way to a deep six


from the interwebs
Is there anything worse than working “sixes”? I would submit that there is not.

“Sixes” is a watch standing routine common to Canada. It is a brutal watch system where two people share the oversight responsibility amongst themselves, in particular on smaller vessels, like tugs. In the engine room the Chief Engineer stands the 6-12 watch, while the Second Engineer stands the 12-6 watch. These watches last the length of the time on board, which in my particular case, now is targeted to six weeks.

Typically, larger vessels have a 4 hrs on 8 hrs off watch routine, where three engineer manned the engine room, with a Chief Engineer usually doing “day work”. Although you still need a second nap while working 4 on 8 off, it offers a bit more flexibility in your rest patterns. The down side to 4 on 8 off is also a higher rate of overtime, spent doing additional maintenance and such.

from the interwebs
Some people, principally the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), do twelve hours days, but they do it in a straight time, 12 to 12. Although this presents its own challenges, it is actually a better watch system for twelve hours days. Your rest is unbroken, less time is wasted in “preparatory routines”, and meals end up on watch. However the CCG also has more crew in the engine room.

Working sixes are usually grueling as the opportunities for rest are so tight. Spend a little too much time working, reading, or watching TV and your next couple of days drag on, as your body deals with the fatigue.  

Rest time is taken up by waking / falling asleep routines, watch handover, meals, throw in some paperwork or a phone call. Your actual effective rest opportunity is reduced to about 4 hrs per off-watch. In addition, your time off watch is never really time-off on a small ship, as all its operations are felt throughout, and impact your rest quality. “Sixes” result in a very regimented day and a very tiring contract.

from the interwebs
Fatigue builds pretty quick with sixes, and within two weeks, any minutes of lost sleep are easily noticed. One good side of fatigue, it forces you to “sleep on command”. Within minutes of hitting the pillow, you are in deep sleep mode. This skill is generally found to be quite frustrating by partners ashore.

My spouse is envious of my ability to fall asleep within second of having an interactive conversation with her – literally within 10-30 seconds of saying good night, I will be snoring.

Watch out for fatigue; learn more from Wikipedia.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Where’s the money from ?


Davie Yard on the St Lawrence River near Quebec City

In previous posts we explore the rebound and challenges of Davie Shipyard. The venerable shipyard, established 192 years ago sits across from Quebec City, on the St Lawrence River. 

The shipyard is projecting a confident air about them, recently delivering a complex offshore construction vessel to European operators, with two more being completed, and two other ships on contract. Running such a capital intensive enterprise such as a shipyard is no easy feat, and certainly requires deep pockets. 

This led me to ask myself; where’s the money coming from?

Most shipyards in the world are somehow, if not fully, funded by the national coffers. Shipyards are a complex machine, and are an important resource to any national economy. Davie has had its share of government money poured into it over the last thirty years. These types of hard financials facts are actually closely guarded secrets in the shipping industry. They deal with a 'whack' of issues, such as international trade and protectionism, and nobody really wants anyone to know just what the figures actually are, as their impacts may be unacceptable socially.

Using my industry knowledge and intuition, and a liberal dose of assumptions, I surmise that the deep pockets supporting this phoenix, that is the new Davie Yard could be the massive, US based, private agri-food multinational, Cargill.

The trail is very hard to follow, but at least at some point CarVal Investors, the investment arm of the US giant, is involved in the Cecon ships, and more. CarVal currently has USD10  billion under management in several portfolios, including Special Opportunities…
CarVal Investors, an independently managed subsidiary of Cargill Incorporated, is a leading global alternative investment fund manager focused on distressed and credit-intensive assets and market inefficiencies.  CarVal Investors directs investments across four asset classes: Loan Portfolios, Corporate Securities, Real Estate and Special Opportunities. 
Davie's parent company is Inocea, and its new management team, I believe, is closely related to Monaco based VGroup. VGroup has numerous ship centric ventures, most notably VShips – a worldwide ship management company - and could be characterize as asset manager.

In 2011, VGroup was bought by OMERS - the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement Scheme - the bus drivers, city clerks, etc, of Ontario. Here is my blog post about it. 

The trail is quite hard to follow with numerous names involved, which are constantly changing, most are unrecognizable in the traditional marine industry. But numerous indicators would suggest that Cargill, is the primary backers of the yard, with the technical expertise done by VGroup.

Why is this important, it is not really, but you could say... just my curiosity? However as a taxpayer I always like to now what’s going on with national assets such as these. I have been contemplating the impacts of this more recently, as I watch the depression continue, and the resulting “austerity” measures being imposed on the masses. 

Meanwhile a select few have continued, even accelerated, to enrich themselves using these national assets such as shipyards and ports. But this is for another blog entry, later.

Here's an article from Sailings Magazine, speaking to the new management team of Davie.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Davie is Goliath – for now



Davie's recently launched Cecon Pride
The past twist and turns, ups and downs, of Davie Shipyard in Quebec City are legendary and certainly worthy of its own book. However, the yard is actually on what appears to be, quite a rebound. 

The yard, established 192 years ago, was re-launch in 2012 after a tumultuous decade of financial woes. The revival is steered by a new management team supplied by European based, ZM Industries. Shunned in the National Ship Procurement Strategy (NSPS), the yard seems to have licks its wounds, and come out swinging.

Cecon offshore construction ships
Earlier in the year, Davie delivered the first Cecon vessel, the Cecon Pride, originally ordered in 2008. The Cecon Pride is a specialized offshore construction vessel, and one of three vessels trapped at the yard after financial trouble hit, yet again, in 2010. 

The order for specialized offshore oil and gas support vessels were a major coup for the Canadian yard; to finally release one of them to their European owners, was a major milestone, considering the painful process they, and their suppliers, underwent.

The yard still has two more copies of the Cecon vessels to finish, the Cecon Excellence, and Cecon Sovereign. The yard will then begin on their contract with the Province of Quebec, building two new LNG powered ferries. Announced at the height of the National Ship Procurement Strategy (NSPS) fanfare, in order to meet NSPS bid submission requirements, the Quebec provincial government gave Davie a $120 million contract to build two new LNG fuelled ferries. The new vessels with GT of 3500 tons, are 92 meter long, have been designed by STX of Vancouver (now Vard), and will start building in 2015.

STQ's new dual fuel ferry designed by Vancouver based Vard (ex STX)
Davie, as a subcontractor to Babcock Canada, recently completed a vessel life extension on the Louis St Laurent, the Canadian Coast Guards flagship, which was “on-time and on budget”. The yard even went after the John Diefenbaker contract, asking the federal government to reconsider the NSPS contract to Vancouver’s Seaspan. 

When asked recently about possibility of Davie getting the Diefenbaker, Brian Carter, President of Seaspan Shipyards, snarled back at the line of questioning, saying there was "not a hope in hell", or something to that affect.

In March 2014, the yard employed 850 workers, making it the biggest shipyard operation in Canada. It’s sits opposite Quebec City on the St Lawrence River, and is a major employer in the region. The yard has recently contracted UK based Faststream Recruitment to seek out an additional 50 skilled employees. According to their newsletter, the firm is looking at poaching Romanians shipyard workers to fill the gap. 


 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Insulting and repulsive

Silja Festival - from interwebs
Last week, the operators of the Delta Spirit Lodge, through a Vancouver based Law Firm specializing in Commercial Law, put advertisements on the BC Government's taxpayer funded WorkBC website.

The advertisement was looking for all ranks of seafarers, including marine professionals holding a Transport Canada engineering Certificate of Competency of Second and First Class. The Delta Spirit Lodge is actually the 28 year old MV Silja Festival, a Latvian flagged cruise ferry, owned and operated by Baltic Sea ferry heavyweight, Tallink.

The ship was pulled from regular ferry service in May 2013, and has been operating in Kitimat, British Columbia, under a Canada Coasting Trade Act waiver granted in May 2014. The waiver is to effect from February 2015, until February 2016. The Latvian flagged cruise ferry has been chartered by an Alberta company, and repositioned to Kitimat, to house construction workers.

Aerial shot of the town of Kitimat on BC's Northern Coast
Kitimat, on the Northern BC coast, has a boom / bust economy. Right now, it is booming, with the aluminum smelter upgrades, and LNG export plant construction, creating a housing crunch. The lame split level 1970s homes populating the small hamlet, are going for an astronomical high price these days, so to cut worker housing costs, the ferry was brought in.
HT Laevateenindus (HT Shipmanagement) is the ship management company for the vessel Silja Festival. This vessel is in Canada, acting as a floating hotel for workers on the Kitimat Modernization Project and the Kitimat LNG Terminal Project in Kitimat, British Columbia for approximately 9 months.
The ads by the Tallin, Estonia, based HT Shipmanagement company seem to be a lightly veiled attempt at fulfilling what is an undoubtedly required process of trying to prove there is no local expertise available to crew this foreign ship. Its “failure” to attract Canadian certified Marine Engineers will mean the company will continue to utilize cheaper foreign Marine Engineers in Canada. I can see the reasoning of this, to maximize profits while doing business in BC, bypassing the accepted national norms – great for them, but nobody else. 

However, Canadian Marine Engineers have gone through a very painful and an arduous process of getting certified in Canada, and therefore should be the only ones to crew ships operating in Canada, and compensated according to local standards. If foreign companies can so easily undercut this hard work, what’s the point of wasting our time training any Ship Officers in Canada; what’s the point of Cabotage. In that case deregulate shipping in Canada altogether, and please deregulate certification while we’re at it, and, remove seafarer income tax barriers – level the playing field.

Silja Festival in Kitimat Source
The ads are looking for numerous levels of Transport Canada certified Marine Engineering professionals. The ads stipulate a three month on, three month off rotation, with a total time of nine months. The salary advertised for the First, Second and Watchkeeping Engineers is $33.52CDN per hour, with no additional benefits.

Assuming you are working a 4 on 8 off schedule, which is typical on this type of trade and vessel, that would work out to be about $270/day, $8000/mth, 48k/yr. All that, for an experienced Transport Canada First Class Certificate of Competency – wow! At least when sailing internationally, these figures would be in US dollars.

Here’s the skinny on the ads…
  • First Engineer: In-charge of an engine room watch, responsible to the Chief Engineer for operations and maintenance of the engine rooms and equipment. 9 months. Positions available: 2. Wage: 33.52 CAD/hour
  • Second Engineer: Responsible for engine room watch and to the 1st Engineer for operations and maintenance of the engine rooms and equipment. 9 months, Positions available: 2, Wage: 33.52 CAD/hour
  • Watch Engineer: Responsible for an engine room watch and for the operations and maintenance of the engine room and equipment. 9 months. Positions available: 2. Wage: 33.52 CAD/hour
  • Electrical engineer - Electro-technical Officer: Responsible for overseeing and carrying out maintenance, repairs and modifications of the electronic/electrical systems on board the vessel. 9 months. Positions available: 2. Wage: 34.28 CAD/hour
  • Refrigerator Equipment Engineer: Responsible for the maintenance and operation of the refrigerating and HVAC equipment on board, including planned maintenance and repairs to equipment, ensuring that Engine Room logs and maintenance records are completed. 9 months. Positions available: 2. Wage: 24.10 CAD/hour
...form the interwebs
With the amount of tradespeople being housed onboard, I would propose that the rate offered in these ads, to perhaps some of the most qualified and regulated professionals onboard – the Marine Engineers, is probably the lowest offered to any of the skilled trades onboard.

Most trades in BC – welders, carpenters, mechanics, electrician – journeyman rate is somewhere between 35-45 dollars per hours – plus benefits. Of course, I don’t have to list the far more extensive requirements achieved by the Canadian Marine Engineer, as opposed to a Trades Qualified journeyman, but suffice to say that a $33/hr rate is grossly out of whack, compared to the average journeyman pay rate, vis a vis certifications, skills an responsibilities.

The ads go on to specify requirements from the candidates:
  • Education: Diploma/certificates of proficiency of Chief Engineer. Must be willing to undergo ship type specific training according to STCW convention and Flag state requirements.
  • Work experience: At least 3 years’ experience on board similar size, class, and construction of vessel or sister ship as Second Engineer ore (sic) Chief Engineer.
  • Language: Written and Oral English is the required (sic). Written and Oral Estonian language is preferred.
The minimum pay rate for a Fourth Class, (the lowest rank in Canada) should be in the region of $400-475 a day; a First or Second Class, is considerably higher. The leave ratio of 3 months on / off is now completely out of norm in Canada. This leave ratio is barely in line with international cruise companies, who are offering a “10 weeks on, 10 weeks off” leave system. The leave system offered in Canada is usually a month on, month off, perhaps going to 6 weeks on / off. 

There is no way a person earning these advertised wages can sustain themselves, much less a family in Canada, and especially not in British Columbia. I don’t know of any Canadian Certified Marine Engineers who would be willing to accept these terms.

Basically, this Estonian company is advertising the same pay package they are probably offering their non-Canadians engineering officers currently onboard. It is, at best, a “low end”, to “middle of the road” pay package on the international market, and a “less than bottom end” package in Canada. The one huge difference is that those officers do not pay income taxes in their countries, so effectively
they can undercut their Canadian counterparts by a large percentage.

Canadian officers pay income tax and payroll taxes, probably in the region of 25-30%. Not to mention the high cost of additional mandatory cost such as BC Medical Service Plan premiums, and a litany of other costs to live here in Canada, and in particular in BC, with its astronomical high cost of living.

The lack of these costs for the foreign engineers is a sizable discount for foreign companies to operate in Canada, and an obvious unfair competitive disadvantage for Canadians. This is why you don’t see many Canadians engineering officers working internationally, we just can’t compete.

To have this happen in my own backyards is insulting and repulsive.

Silja Festival in Kitimat Source
I am surprised to even see these ads, I just assume the government would just roll over for the companies and corporations as it usually does, and let this foreign ship, operating with foreign crews on Canadian projects. The foreign workers are afforded the conveniences and safety of working in Canada with unfettered access to our publicly funded infrastructure, without paying any income taxes to Canada. So, kudos to whoever in government is forcing the issue, undoubtedly against great pressures.

How probable it is that they will find Marine Engineers certified by Transport Canada to answer these ads, I’d estimate there was no reasonable expectation of success – on purpose.

Which is probably why they are using a Vancouver based “Commercial Law” firm of Bernard LLP, to handle the applications – a highly unusual crewing arrangement. To any seasoned seafarer, this should tell you allot in of itself. For the rest of the hardworking, tax paying public, this should shed light on the validity of their intentions. 

Tip -Using child labor would probably
also increase profits, call it "training"
As it was with the Chinese, and the hiring of “skilled labour” for their infamous Tumbler Ridge cola mine in central BC, which made national headlines. The hiring criteria (mirrored by those above) were so narrow that it was meaningless to even ask for anything but slave labour, huh, I means, “temporary” foreign workers to exploit BC’s resources.

Strong unions raised up concerns about the true intentions of the Chinese mining company in courts of law and in public opinion courts. Eventually, the Chinese got their way and Canadian workers lost out on those valuable jobs. Unlike the mine, the very specialized and highly trained Marine Engineers and their low numbers, have no organization with clout to speak for them. The mine's temporary foreign worker debacles is clearly whats ahead for us engineers in Canada.

The Canadian Marine Engineering ranks have been decimated by decades of abuse and neglect, and a successful assault by Canadian ship operators on labor coordination. Now the Canadian shipping industry is faced with a major problem, there is not enough certified Canadian engineers willing to suffer through harsh conditions, on subpar vessels, for subsistence wages.

After all, why would they, when all signs like these, point to a federal government unwilling to protect those highly skilled Canadians jobs and the families they support. However, these engineers and their families have, or are expected to, slog through endless and burdensome Canadian certification requirements, and then are expected to compete on an un-level playing field.

This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, foreign certified Marine Engineers – in all probability all officers, not to mention, ratings - will most likely be kept on board this vessel in Kitimat; a foreign owned ship, with a foreign crew, operating in Canada, for a lengthy period of time regardless of the outcome of this futile exercise.

With the escalating rate of retirements and the numerous other projects coming online, Canadian ship operators are requiring a dramatic increase of Marine Engineers labor supply. However, Canada – its government, its unions and its ship operators – over the last few decades, has failed to nurture, even hampered, the ability of Marine Engineers to come into, and rise through the ranks. There is only one thing on the horizon – the end.

Harper's TFW program;
yeaaaahhhh, thanks for that...
The choice that is emerging, by default, is the end of our profession in Canada, or continue to endure the unsustainable working conditions currently being imposed on us, and those, becoming even worst by actions such as these.

Hell of a choice.

I encourage all of you, my Transport Canada certified engineering peers, to send in your resume in response to these ads. Whether you are working or not, ashore or not, I want you to submit your resume, do it now.

Flood these people with your documents regardless of the terms they are offering. If they are actually serious, you can try to negotiate better terms, or decline the offer. Let me know what comes of it. This affects you, and cannot go unnoticed; spread the word to your local media, and Member of Parliament.

Please email or mail your application to:
1500 – 570 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6C 3P1
Attention:  Catherine Hofmann
Email:  info@bernardllp.ca
Here's some info from the BC Chamber of Shipping
Silja Festival
Built by STX Finland, Helsinki Yard in 1986
Owned and managed by AS Tallink Grupp
Technically managed by Owned by HT Shipmanagement, Tallinn, Estonia

LOA 168m
Beam 27.6m
GRT 34,414
Berths 1879
Speed 22 knots

The vessel has been chartered by Rio Tinto Alcan to house additional workers being contracted for the Kitimat smelter’s modernization project. The ship is expected to be used for nine months and will have a service staff of 110 persons.