Oh sure, why not ! Anybody else...

I partly attribute my loss of a good job, and those of my 20 shipmates last year, to the ability of cargo owners to be quickly granted Canada Transportation Act waiver – where foreign owned ships, who pay no Canadian income tax (among others), hire no Canadians, yet operate in Canadian waters, or between Canadian ports. As a guy who’s invested pretty heavily in a seagoing Marine Engineering career, and the entire BS that goes with it in Canada, this irks me to no end.

As a result, over the last year, I have been following the CanadianTransportation Agency’s (CTA) news feed of the waiver applications. From my perspective, the type and frequency of the applications is trending upwards. It used to be that very specialized offshore oil service vessels would be granted waivers. Now, even tug and barges, tankers, and platform supply vessels are routinely being applied for.

For example, rarely a month goes by that Irving Oil does not apply for, and is granted, multiple waivers on the East Coast. You would think that being on the receiving end of so much of my tax dollars, a sizable portion taken from my meager Canadian sailor paycheck, via government grants and contracts; they would show leadership maintaining proper Canadian tanker capacity, for their needs, instead of bringing in foreign tankers. If they have such a big need to use foreign tonnage, when are they going to be required to do something about it (...I know, I know, its Irving, and I was asking a rhetorical question).

PSV Magne Viking bound to
work in Cdn. waters
In the latest round of applications, mostly for East Coast operation, I see Platform Supply Vessels on the list. These are not high end specialized vessels per se. Is there really no Canadian operator willing to provide a vessel, or is willing to take on a contract to build or operate a vessel, to support East Coast operations? Not even the willingness to ask a foreign operator to start a Canadian division, at least have some Canadian content?

Now, I know as a “West coaster” I am not allowed to work on the East Coast (anything east of Quebec), so what rights do I have to complain, but still, this trend is worrisome and infectious. I even see a tug and barge waiver application. For the love of god! Where does it end?  

Okay, so I am ranting a bit here, and the reason is that I understand business, hey, it’s competitive out there, bla, bla, bla. But what really set me off was a visit to the PSV operator’s websites.

Ok, Troms (now part of Tidewater) and Viking, you are planning to work in Canadian waters with your PSV (they are really nice though), to help other foreign owned and operated assets, exploit Canadian natural resources off Canada’s coast (which my tax dollar have been administrating and protecting for years) – great. Perhaps you might be interested in hearing from a Canadian Marine Engineer - a bonus, “local content” and an access to an experienced professional.

Troms Castor, aptly named perhaps?
So, I think can compete on the global marketplace (well not really, thanks to Transport Canada, but that’s a different subject), and when I visit the HR area of these operators’ website, the message is plain spoken; only Scandinavians seafarers need apply. I could not even send them a resume, for the remote chance of even being considered.

I am by no means upset by these company's policy - well, a little maybe – jealous really - to the contrary, perhaps our government could grab a clue (and some balls), and follow this example. Because, I am getting sick and tired of working on old boat, for scraps of work, making subsistence wages, because we have no faith in investing in Canadian expertise or equipment, to exploit our own resources. 

I highly recommend that you follow the CTA's news feed / mailing list yourself – it’s quite enlightening. The CTA has made it more difficult than it used to be, to follow these proceedings, requiring an excessive amount of website navigation to find the marine waiver applications, and those granted, but if you use the email service, it’s a bit easier to follow. And judging from my experiences last year with this system, it’s only a matter of time before you, yes even you, as a Canadian in general, and as a professional seafarer in particular, are impacted. Educate yourselves, speak out!

Oh yeah, right, the “speak out” part is kinda of a stupid comment, as the whole process of granting a waivers is not impacted by any seafarers, or other industry stakeholder for that matter – we have absolutely no say in the process. The process is entirely between ship owners and cargo / mission owners, with the government (funded by me) to act as go between, while they ‘divvy up the pie’ - must be nice.

Maybe you could have a say to your Member of Parliament instead, not that's very useful either, judging from my past experiences, but worth a try. Or maybe we should be just done with the window dressing - "protecting" Canadian (very few selected businesses) interest and delete the Coasting Trade Act altogether. Maybe an average taxpayer like me, might not have to fund this insult.

The process, from CTA's website

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