"Economic conditions"

West Coast Canada remains under a great deal of influence cause by the recession, south of the border. With forest products being a major component of the maritime trade on BC's coast, its been a heck of a few years, felt well before the official recognition of trouble. As such, I was surprised to see that Seaspan's recent announcement took so long in coming.

Last month Washington Marine Group (WMG), which controls a myriad of businesses in BC, including Seaspan, Victoria and Vancouver Shipyards, were force to react to "economic conditions" and lay off 20% of their shore side workforce. New Seaspan CEO, Jonathan Whitworth (pictured below), himself a USCG licensed officer, seems to have wasted no time in doing some downsizing. The Texas formed seafarer, cum shipping executive, joined the company in late August of this year. From what I understand, over 50 people lost their job in the decision.

On the ship side of things, personnel matters remain business as usual, that is, in a constant state of flux, which is normal for the BC coast. But the company has reached a new contract with its officers. Engineering and deck officers on the companies' vessels, are represented by the CMSG (Canadian Merchant Services Guild, aka as "The Guild"). The company reports that they have reached a new collective agreement for five years, after the current one ends in September 2010. The agreement features a yearly pay increase of 3%.

In other WMG news, Victoria Shipyards has bought all of the assets of Victoria's Canadian Marine Engineering Western Division, which was located next door to Victoria Shipyards, at the Esquimalt Drydock. The parent company of the division, CME, is headquartered in Dartmouth NS. The western division of CME had been in operation since the beginning of the decade.

VicShip, as it is commonly known, will use the added space and assets in the carrying out the FELEX contract, which will see the Canadian Navy's frigate go through a "vessel life extension" work period. One part, worth $351 million, of the $2 billion dollar Navy contract was awarded to VicShip in March 2008. Halifax Shipyards was awarded a $549 million contract, and Lockheed Martin scooped up the rest.

A shipbuilding competitor to Seaspan, also on the North Vancouver shoreline, Allied Shipyards, is benefiting from a Canadian Coast Guard contract, issued under the "government stimulus plan". Allied outbid WMG for work on the buoy tender CCGS Bartlett, built in 1969.

The Bartlett is scheduled for some major machinery upgrades, to the tune of $10 million dollars. Sadly, the aging vessel will remain a bit of a lemon, despite having received several "mid-life refit". With the amount of money poured into "upgrading" the aging fleet over the years, we probably would have several new ships by now for the same price.

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