Tuesday, October 31, 2006

and I though 8 month contracts were abusive

Globe and Mail's Mark Hume writes about a case of "slavery" at sea. Ok so the covering in fish blood and a throwing them overboard in shark infested waters is definitely abusive; the term slavery could widely be used on many vessels at sea on the world's oceans.

VANCOUVER — As the subject of a bet on whether sharks would attack him, Paulo Romero Cedeno was stripped naked, washed in fish blood and thrown into the ocean. There in the dark water, in the black of night, the young man heard the crew of the fishing vessel laughing at him. Then the captain snapped on a light and, after a few moments, dragged him aboard. He was later beaten by crew members who'd lost money betting he would die.

His younger brother, Cristhian Romero Cedeno, was subject to the same game -- as well as to rape. Both men were routinely beaten and forced to sleep on the open deck. Such was life aboard the Dolphin Free, a deep-sea fishing vessel from Ecuador that roamed the high seas -- visiting Samoa, Fiji, the Marshall Islands and Tahiti -- with the two brothers held against their will for about two years in what the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada has described as a modern-day case of slavery at sea.

In granting the brothers refugee status, Immigration and Refugee Board panel member Fred Hitchcock stated that they sought asylum "due to persecution, torture and fear to their life from the owners of a vessel." Mr. Hitchcock, who described both claimants as "very credible and trustworthy," said they had been sold into what amounted to "almost slavery" by one of the vessel's owners, an aunt who is now believed to be in New Zealand. He ruled that the brothers, now working in the Vancouver-area construction industry, should not be sent home because they "have a well-founded fear of persecution if they were to return to Ecuador."

Mr. Hitchcock said the men could not count on state protection because their aunt had eluded an outstanding warrant in Ecuador. As further proof that they would not be safe in Ecuador, he noted the Cedenos' father and a brother were in hiding there, fearing retribution from the ship's owners, and that the brothers have turned to the UN International Court of Justice to press their claims for compensation from the aunt .

Rasik Shah and Jose Godoy Toku, immigration consultants who handled the Cedeno claim, said it is the most shocking case of its kind they have ever encountered. "I have no doubt that there are other cases like this on the high seas," Mr. Shah said. "But this is extreme." Sitting in Mr. Toku's office this week, their hands in their laps, eyes downcast, the Cedeno brothers tried to describe their ordeal. "It was horrible," said Cristhian, 21. "Horrible."

Paulo, 28, joined the vessel first, at the urging of his aunt, expecting to be paid about $10,000 a year. Cristhian joined later, saying that when his aunt sent him to New Zealand, he thought he would be going to school there. Instead, he was thrown aboard the Dolphin Free.

When asked what life was like aboard the ship, Paulo stammered out a few answers, then stopped. "These are ugly things I don't talk about," he said, speaking through Mr. Toku, who was translating. "We would wake at 3 a.m.," Cristhian said. "Actually we couldn't sleep. Up at 3 a.m. We grabbed the fishing line with our hands [to haul in the catch]. Then they would throw us into the freezer, just me and my brother, for hours at a time to stack the fish.

"When there were storms we would have to be out back holding the lines to see if the fish would gather. We would have to climb to the top of the vessel and stand there for hours to watch the ocean and see if there were fish. It was like this every day. It was 3 a.m. until midnight."

In a written statement he provided the Immigration and Refugee Board, Paulo described the shark-baiting game. "On or about June, 2002, after working for 16 hours non-stop, the captain and two Fijian crewmembers grabbed me. They took off my clothes and soaked me with fish blood. They started laughing at me. I begged for them to let me go. I felt terrorized. Suddenly the captain grabbed me and threw me to the ocean. I was screaming for help because I knew sharks could attack me. It was pitch black. I could not see anything. A few minutes or seconds (I just can't remember) later the captain pointed a light on me. . . . On the vessel again, the captain started collecting money from the other Fijian crew members. Apparently they had made a bet on my life."

Paulo said he begged to be released from the boat, but was refused. "I blocked out from my head all the pain and suffering," he wrote. "My body got used to torture. I was brain dead. I would cry at night and fall to sleep." When the Dolphin Free visited Vancouver, the brothers saw a chance to escape. Stealing their passports from the captain's cabin during a drinking party, they slipped over the side at the docks in Ladner and fled.

"You just had to look at them to know they were traumatized," said Mr. Toku, who saw them later that day after a Spanish-speaking woman they met in a mall told them where to seek help. The two brothers now share a dream, he said: "They want to have families and work in Canada."

He said the Cedenos will seek to have the ship's owners charged through the International Court of Justice at the United Nations. In a written submission to the IRB, Mr. Shah stated that the aunt, "Ms. Julie Smith and her husband [who was not named], now based in New Zealand, can conceivably face charges related to trafficking in human persons . . . under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Criminal Acts based on the evidence of the claimants."

Three exam candiates, one handwriting, mmmmm

MCA overhauls certificate test procedures after three engineer officers are caught copying papers - NUMAST Telegraph SEPTEMBER 2006

THE MARITIME & Coastguard Agency has overhauled procedures for UK certificate of competency examinations following a case in which three engineer officers were caught cheating. The three officers — Avilano Alves, from Goa, Pervez Rafique Modak, from Mumbai, and Tahir Malik Mahmood, from Chaklala, Pakistan — had their certificates cancelled at a hearing at the Central London Civil Justice Centre.

Inquiry adjudicator Lionel Persey QC said the UK certificate of competency was ‘a valuable and much-prized qualification in the maritime world’, and candidates were entitled to expect that the examination system is ‘scrupulously fair’. He warned of a ‘very real risk that safety will be ompromised’ if senior officers obtained certificates through dishonesty. The case arose after an examiner noticed differences in the handwriting between the cover and the inside of a workbook submitted by Ishtiyak Modak in an applied mechanics examination leading to a second engineer certificate.

A second workbook completed by the candidate contained the questions to a previous applied mechanics examination. The examiner’s suspicions prompted an investigation by the MCA’s enforcement unit which revealed that Mr Modak had failed the first 10 examinations he had taken. The investigation found that when Mr Modak had achieved passes, he had completed only the front page of each workbook in his own handwriting and that the answers to questions were not in his own handwriting. The MCA declared all his exam results null and void, and banned him from taking any more until July 2008.

As a result of these findings, the MCA decided to conduct a major review of engineering exam papers for the previous five years. Some 5,000 papers were examined, and handwriting experts identified the handwriting of the three engineers as being found on other examination papers that appeared to have been completed by more than one individual. The three were found to have been involved in cases where their work was passed off as that of candidates sitting engineering officers’ exams.

A major MCA review of nearly 5,000 examination papers submitted by engineering officers was triggered by a discovery that an officer sitting an applied heat test had two examination workbooks on his desk containing different handwriting. Handwriting experts identified that Mr Alves, Mr Mahmood and Pervez Rafique Modak were probably the authors of answers given in a number of Ishtiyak Modak’s examination papers.

A formal inquiry was held under Section 61 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 into the fitness of the three officers to hold UK certificates of competency. This ruled that the men’s behaviour was 'misconduct of the most serious kind’. In making his judgement, Mr Persey said there was no place in the Merchant Navy for those who were found to have dishonestly abused the examination system and he recommended that, as well as having their certificates cancelled, the three men should be barred for five years from resitting examinations to regain certificates of competency.

Mr Persey noted that the inquiry had been told that the examination system had been considerably tightened up since the fraud was uncovered. ‘Standards of supervision are higher, workbooks are kept secure prior to each exam sitting and are numbered, and the checking of a candidate’s personal details is more scrupulously attended to,’ he added. But, he stated, ‘it was unfortunate indeed that the system was capable of being abused in the way that happened here. I was surprised that a number of examiners failed to observe that the papers which they were marking had clearly been completed in two different hands’.

Following the case MCA chief examiner Captain Roger Towner stressed that several major changes had been made to certification and examination procedures in a bid to prevent fraud. ‘This matter should make it even clearer to those who assist in an attempt to defraud the UK certification system that they will be placing their own certificate of competency in jeopardy,’ he added.

NUMAST has supported the action taken by the MCA. Senior national secretary Allan Graveson commented: ‘It is important that the integrity of the examination system is maintained, and for this to be achieved the MCA needs to ensure that adequate resources are deployed in nautical colleges for effective policing. ‘Colleges also need to ensure that guidance issued is adhered to,’ he added.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Job scam website shutdown

This is a bit dated now, but still very valid for anyone in our business.

Agency clamps down on 2 websites that duped would-be oilpatch workers

TORONTO (CP) - Canada's Competition Bureau says it has shut down two Edmonton-based websites that duped job seekers around the world with promises of lucrative salaries, but oilcareer.com is already back online and open for business. A Google search for "oilcareer" leads to countless allegations of fraud from people saying they paid hundreds of dollars for services they didn't receive, and then couldn't get a refund as originally promised.

"We received complaints from Canadians but also from Americans, from Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. Certainly the oil and gas industry is one that globally attracts people with visions of grandeur and significant incomes," said Brian Lemon, spokesman for the federal agency.

It took five years of complaints from Internet users and persistent work by anti-scam websites to convince the agency to act. The result is a consent agreement, similar to a plea bargain, which outlines penalties for false and misleading representations about the effectiveness of the services, the validity of a "money-back risk-free guarantee," and phoney testimonials.

"The (law) requires that before you make a testimonial you must have written prior consent. In this case, these people didn't exist, which makes it very difficult to get their prior written approval," Lemon said. "Testimonials are a huge, huge part of anybody working on the Internet and that's what makes this as egregious as it is. These were just fabricated stories, fictitious names, people who didn't exist, all intended to lend legitimacy and credibility to what amounted to a scam."

Strategic Ecomm Inc. and Matthew Hovila agreed to pay a $100,000 fine - the maximum penalty - and post an admission of guilt online for actions related to oilcareer.com and governmentaljobs.com. Lemon admitted it took a while to get action against the websites - consumers first complained in late 1999 and a formal investigation began in Sept. 2000 - but said the bureau was happy with the result, since it was considered an important case.

"It's international, it affects Canada's relationships abroad, it was based on a (large) number of complaints we got, and (Hovila) was quite successful in his scam," he said. There's no estimate of how much money was obtained overall but consumers spent from $397US to as much as $1,197US in the hopes of getting a job. In an e-mail interview, Hovila said oilcareer.com is back online and now operating under a new business model. He said he's learned from his mistakes.

"As time went on we were experimenting with a number of ideas. Some of these ideas did cross the line as far as perhaps exaggerating the realm and scope of the service. We admit to that," Hovila said. "We did fall into the trap of engaging in some reviewable conduct and we were called to account for it. It was a good learning experience . . . and I'm just pleased that we were able to resolve the whole matter."

The new website already has more than 80 testimonials posted online, which Hovila insists are real. "For the new business model I figured out how to get testimonials and generated tons of them, and could generate tons more of authentic testimonials if I wanted to," he said.

"Also, those people were genuinely impressed with my members area as it is a helpful product," he said. Eight Canadian testimonials are posted online but none of the names have telephone listings and could not be contacted. Lemon said the new site has not been investigated. "As much as (the consent agreement) goes into force the very second that it is registered, I think it's also prudent to allow . . . some time to ensure they comply," he said.

"The conduct you see today is somewhat different, and quite frankly, we haven't received complaints regarding it and haven't made any determinations one way or another about the conduct that is ongoing now," he said. When asked about the number of new testimonials online he said they "make me raise an eyebrow."

"Should complaints and information come forward suggesting that the existing conduct is as egregious or is in some way in violation of the act, certainly we want to ensure these orders have some real meaning," he said. The bureau had the option of pursuing criminal or civil charges but went down the civil route because the evidence supported the case more.

Lemon said it also made it a more efficient way of going forward and getting the desired result. "We approached them to say, 'Look, we think we've got the goods on you, are you willing to entertain a negotiated settlement?' From my perspective, I'm spending taxpayers' dollars and to not (try) to work out a deal - which ends up getting us what we want - at much less cost and time, that's a win-win for the taxpayers," he said.

Hovila, who is the only person named in the consent agreement in relation to oilcareer.com and governmentaljobs.com, was also issued a 10-year court order to not reoffend, and could face criminal charges if he does so. While oilcareer.com is already taking new customers, governmentaljobs.com has a message online saying it will soon resume business. Most of the complaints received by the Competition Bureau were directed at oilcareer.com.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Huh... duh!

Of the many interesting articles always found on Ship Talk, you will find quite few dealing with lack of seafarers. Which, I am sure you have heard, as a regular visitor you might be, that I am pretty much sick and tired of hearing about this. If you want professional seafarers from North America and / or Europe - to support your business now and in the future - give us an incentive. Companies want it all without working for it, just like everyone else, no news there. Anyways, here goes, an interesting article nonetheless...

Shipping Manning Slammed - 25 October 2006, from shiptalk.com

The American P&I Club has issued a scathing attack on shipping’s cost-cutting strategies and the dramatic reduction of qualified seafarers and surveyors.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association of Average Adjusters in New York, American Club VP, John Poulson derided the “shocking and unacceptable” investment shortfall in people and training by many “self-centred” shipping players.

He added that some ship operators are deferring maintenance and repairs, while “too many ships of poor standard have been allowed to continue trading when they should have been scrapped”.

He further explained that “the traditional source of surveyors is rapidly drying up, quite simply because seafaring is becoming a Third World occupation”.

Given the dwindling source of surveyors, Poulson asserted that the blue-chip surveying companies that remain must redouble efforts to find and train suitable candidates.

This in turn means that “underwriters of all classes – hull and machinery, P&I, cargo, etc. – must be prepared to pay a premium for services that will allow such companies to train the people needed to fulfil these [surveyor] roles. There is a dire need for investment,” Poulson concluded.

Friday, October 27, 2006

CBC Broadcasts from CCGS Terry Fox

Tune in to CBC TV Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening next week at 10:00 p.m. to see The National broadcast from the CCGS Terry Fox.
Portions of Peter Mansbridge's broadcasts from on board the CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent last August will also be part of the show those three nights.

Since I can look out my window and see the Fox at dock, I don't know if these are programmed from when she was in the Arctic or will feature a view of the sewage treatment plant being built just beyond her!

You can see her here:


Monday, October 23, 2006

...and it breaths fire too !

AP Moller - Maersk Group shocks the "box shipping" world by launching the Emma Maersk (pictured on the right - from JTA Ship Photo) from the company's Odense Yard in Denmark, on August 12th 2006. Shock because the official box count from Maersk is set at 11,600 Twenty Foot Equivalent (TEU), but popular sizing suggest a total capacity of 13,500 - 14,500 TEU; well above any other container ship carrying capacity. The Emma Maersk and Estelle Maersk, launched October 2nd 2006, are the lead vessels of an 11 ship "E" class series of ships.

Below is from the The Scandinavian Shipping Gazette...

"It has also been revealed that the Emma Mærsk is fitted with the largest diesel engine ever manufactured. A 14-cylinder 96 cm Wärtsilä engine of Flex-type with electronic control developing some 80,080 kW, has been built for this huge containership. Furthermore, the engine room is filled with auxiliary engines adding around 40,000 hp for servicing reefer containers. Added to these is a huge shaft-generator and a turbo-generator using exhaust heat from the funnel. The service speed will as usual be around 25 knots, which is a standard term in Maersk Line, but again it is likely that the Emma Mærsk will be capable of much more speed if needed, to make up for lost time in the tight schedules."

The nearly 400 meter, 150,000 hp ship is crewed by only 13 people. Registered in the Danish city of Taarbæk commanded by Captain Henrik Solmer with Michael Thomassen Sort as Chief Engineer. It will run on Maersk Asia-Europe service by going through the Suez Canal starting from the Swedish City of Gothenburg and retuning 63 days later. The maiden voyage will end in Denmark's second largest city, Århus, on November 18.

On the June 14th posting on this Blog, you were first introduced to the ship after some dramatic pictures of the ship's bridge, fully engulfed in a shipyard fire surfaced (see "Big trouble for big ship in yard"). The fire, reportedly caused by welding, destroyed the nearly completed accommodation and wheelhouse structure. The fire caused a seven week delay, during that time the superstructure was cut out and a new one fitted and completed.

Emma Mærsk
Homeport: Taarbæk
Built: Odense Staalskibsværft. Hull no. 203
Owner: A.P. Møller-Mærsk A/S
Length o.a. 397.71 m
Length b.p. 376.0 m
Width: 56.40 m
Draft: 15.5 m
Hight of hull: 30.2 m
Gross tonnage: 170,974 bt
Net tonnage : 55,396 nt
Deadweight: 156,907 DWT
Main engine: Wärtsilä 14RT-Flex96c, 80,080 kW (109,000 hp)
Speed: >25.5 knots
Auxiliary: 5 x Caterpillar (MAK) 8M32, 40,000 hp

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Doubts over fair treatment of seafarers

This is from the BIMCO site. To read some of the articles out there on treatment of seaman, it does not make me at all fussy to go back to sea. I know of one Chief Engineer who quit going to sea for the same reason.

By Andrew Guest

“Seafarers are special” was the message sent out when guidelines on how they are treated in the wake of a maritime accident were adopted earlier this year.

The industry and the two agencies involved in their drafting of the “Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident” guidelines, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), had, however, barely stopped congratulating themselves on a speedy outcome when dissenting voices were raised and it proved the guidelines were not as fully adopted as some had thought.

The guidelines were the result of increasing concern over the detention of seafarers mainly after maritime accidents resulting in pollution. Ships’ crews and even salvors on scene to try and minimise pollution were being arrested, often without being charged, in a cynical bid to have leverage. Seafarers, in effect, had become scapegoats and pawns in a game of politics and money.

There was equal concern over the treatment of seafarers involved in alleged cases of pollution involving oily water separators, treatment so harsh that it led in one case to a suicide. In other cases seafarers were held for long periods in a distant foreign country where they were unfamiliar with the language and, in particular, the laws.

The industry was also worried by a perceived trend towards criminalisation in proposed anti-pollution legislation in the European Union that was at odds with existing international laws dealing with maritime pollution. This trend was further evidenced last month when the EU Environment Commissioner threatened to strengthen existing laws and seek to introduce new laws to criminalise the actions of those involved in the disposal of ship’s slops.

This, like other incidents, showed an alarming propensity to prejudge cases before all the facts were known, as at the time several investigations were under way into the circumstances which led to the dumping of a tanker’s slops in open rubbish tips and the reported deaths and illnesses among people exposed to the fumes.

The criminalisation trend was of further concern to the industry because it coincided with a shortage of skilled seafarers and a perceived disinclination among people to consider seriously seafaring as a career. The image of seafaring would be damaged if it was perceived as one where there was an increasing likelihood of being seized as a hostage to fortune in some foreign land, far from home and unsure of one’s rights, even when totally innocent.

Hence the urgency with which the guidelines were drafted and adopted and the feeling of satisfaction and relief that something at last had been achieved, that might turn the tide.

What seemed, however, to be a fait accompli now turns out to have been conditional on a review which will take place next month when the IMO Legal Committee meets in Paris. There are some fine points of detail to be polished, but the main points of contention cover the guidelines’ definition of a maritime accident, the seafarer’s right to remain silent, presumption of innocence and jurisdictional precedence.

On the definition of a maritime accident, some flag states have claimed the definition is too broad, particularly by not referring to actual or potential damage. Shipowners and unions point out that the definition was developed by legal experts at the Comité Maritime International and that there is no connection between assessing whether damage has or has not been caused and whether seafarers should be treated fairly or not.

Another point made by the would-be amenders is that the guidelines fail to say they are not intended to apply following incidents committed with criminal intent. This, the industry, accepts is quite true, but points out criminal intent is something for courts to determine, not accident investigators. Seafarers are innocent until proved guilty following due legal process and any detained should still be treated fairly in accordance with the guidelines.

On the right of seafarers to remain silent, some want the guidelines to be qualified by the fact accident investigators are allowed to compel seafarers to co-operate. The industry says any such qualification would confuse seafarers, as they would not know when any statements they make may be used against them. It is up to the individual state, the industry argument goes, to satisfy the seafarer there is no danger of self-incrimination.

A working group at the IMO Flag State Implementation (FSI) Committee is in any case revising the Code for the Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents where the issue of self-incrimination is being addressed. So it would be premature to revise the guidelines until the FSI revision is completed.

Concerns have also been expressed about how the guidelines address the issue of jurisdiction, but they only recommend steps are taken to respect flag-state jurisdiction in accordance with international law. Nor, the industry argues, do they seek to call into question or prevent the use of a state’s criminal law where appropriate, but only to ensure that it is done in a fair way.

Seafarers are often subject to the laws of several states: the flag-state, the coastal state and their home country and it is unreasonable to presume they will be familiar with all of them. The point of the guidelines was to address this jurisdictional uncertainty and to seek to ensure seafarers could rely on the application of international human rights instruments.

There are serious concerns the guidelines will be amended in such a way as to negate their intention. It is accepted the text might not be perfect but this, it is argued, is the result of often delicate negotiations and that it was always intended they be reviewed, preferably after some experience and in light of the work of the FSI working group’s revision when a more detailed review could be undertaken.

It seems likely, however, either they will be amended next month or their adoption by governments will be delayed. In the meantime, more seafarers may be detained, no doubt to be recorded in the planned update to the study into such detentions already undertaken by BIMCO. Some might say that is not fair, but fairness, is of course, relative.

Editor’s Note: Andrew Guest is a freelance journalist.

Feature articles written by outside contributors do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of BIMCO.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Canadian Helicopter Corporation founder lifts off for the last time

...of interest to those who work on rigs and such...

Craig Dobbin, founder of CHC Helicopters, dies in N.L. at the age of 71
Oct 7, 2006 Canadian Press

BEACHY COVE, N.L. (CP) - Craig Dobbin, the Newfoundland entrepreneur who founded world-spanning CHC Helicopters Corp. nearly two decades ago, has died. He was 71. Dobbin died early Saturday in his hometown of Beachy Cove, N.L., near St. John's, the company said.

A day earlier, the Vancouver-based flight services company announced that Dobbin was taking a leave of absence from his position of executive chairman due to unspecified health reasons. His son, Mark Dobbin, was appointed to temporarily take his place.

Craig Dobbin founded CHC in 1987 when he headed a group that bought Okanagan Helicopters and Toronto Helicopters, and merged them with his own company, Sealand Helicopters. He started Sealand a decade earlier with just one chopper.

CHC (TSX:FLY.A; TSX:FLY.B) now flies in more than 30 countries and considers itself the world's largest provider of helicopter services to the global offshore oil and gas industry. "He was a true entrepreneur," Rick Davis, the company's chief financial officer, said in an interview Saturday.

"He didn't take no for an answer. He was the kind of guy who would just put his head down and go for it. He just never stopped thinking about the business." Davis recalled that less than two weeks ago, Dobbin chaired CHC's annual general meeting, despite his failing health. He said Dobbin's deteriorating condition was related to a lung transplant 10 years ago.

Dobbin moved CHC's head office from St. John's to Vancouver in 2004 but remained a familiar name in his native province. He served as consul-general of Ireland in Newfoundland and Labrador, was named Newfoundland's businessman of the millennium in 2000, and was named to the Order of Canada in 1992.

Two years ago, Dobbin and his brother Mark started the St. John's Fog Devils, a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League franchise in the province's capital. "Craig embodied the spirit and passion of a Newfoundlander and Labradorian like no one else," the province's premier, Danny Williams, said in a statement. "He was a deeply loved individual, who sacrificed for others and worked tirelessly to build a life of happiness for his family and friends."

Former premier Brian Tobin called Dobbin a "great son of Newfoundland and Labrador. "He consistently demonstrated courage and resolve in seizing both business opportunities and facing serious health challenges," Tobin said in a statement. "And he did so with equal parts of grace and dignity even in the most trying of circumstances."

Dobbin also founded Omega Investments, a Newfoundland real estate company; Air Atlantic, a regional airline; Vector Aerospace; and CHC Composites Ltd. He was to be inducted into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame next summer for his lifetime of work in the aviation industry.

Aside from his life as a businessman, Dobbin helped fund lung disease research at the University of Pennsylvania and became involved with several charities, including the Lung Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dobbin is survived by his wife Elaine and five children. A funeral mass was scheduled for Monday at a St. John's church.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Icy thoughts

CBC News is running an interesting report (below) regarding the bleak future of Canadian Coast Guard in the Arctic. Equipment and manpower shortages abound, crunch time is well pass if we are to assert any kind of sovereignty. Oddly enough, the US government is, right as we speak, being brieffed on a similar matter, but south of the border, read the article here from the Globe and Mail. Another view, this one from south of the border with some interesting comments from the gentlemen representing Alaska in the US federal government.

Arctic icebreakers aging, new ones to cost billions: Coast Guard

Billions of dollars will be needed to replace Canada's aging fleet of Arctic icebreakers within the next decade, Canadian Coast Guard official Gary Sidock told CBC News.

Many of the seven icebreakers and three river-class vessels that ply northern waters from late June to early October are near retirement, said Sidock, who is the acting director general, fleet, for the Canadian Coast Guard in Ottawa.

The vessels are used to open shipping lanes, for scientific studies and for search and rescue operations.

Depending on the model, the vessels can cost as much as $500 million and take up to 10 years to build, so Canada should get its order in soon, said Sidock.

"Perhaps not immediately, but fairly shortly," he said. "The ice-breaking fleet will have to be replaced and that can be a phased replacement. That is absolutely very much on our minds."

Crew shortage another concern

With many crew members headed for retirement, the Coast Guard is also concerned there may be a shortage of people qualified to operate the ships.

Michael Gardiner, the Coast Guard's assistant commissioner for the central and Arctic region, said there is a lot of competition for well-trained people in Canada and abroad.

"Canadian marine officers are considered to be very competent, well-trained, culturally sensitive and are sought after by the world merchant marine fleets," he said.

He hopes they can soon recruit young graduates who can train under the experienced crew members before they retire.

Canada has one heavy icebreaker, the Louis St. Laurent, along with four intermediate ships. It has one light icebreaker, one dedicated science icebreaker and three river-class vessels.