Mr. Duck goes to Ottawa

CIMarE National Chair and Co Host of the MariTech 2012 introducing the Safety Panel discussion

I am at the airport now, about to leave Ottawa after five days here, heading back home for a few days before going
back to sea. I arrived in Ottawa on Sunday, and enjoyed our nation’s capital by visiting the parliament building, the war museum, and extensively walking around the downtown core, taking in the sights and experiences.

On Tuesday, the true purpose of my visit, attending Mari Tech 2012, began in earnest. This year’s annual technical conference from the Canadian Institute of Marine Engineering (CIMarE) was co sponsored by the Society of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (SNAME).

The conference had a much different flair than the previous year’s conference held in Victoria. For one, the physical size of the conference space and the number of attendees was much greater; reported to be over 500 attendees. For those having attended the previous conferences, they would have found the format varied considerably, with numerous papers sessions occurring simultaneously. The conference also featured several panel discussions.

Khanh Tran, Chief Engineer with Canadian Coast Guard deliver a technical paper

One common comment I observed, was that there was too much to see and hear, and that it was difficult to fit it all in – I guess you could say too much of a good thing. The look and feel of the event was also a more polished one, aided by what seemed to be a well equipped facility and staff.

My purpose for attending Mari Tech 2012 was to give a presentation on Blue Riband, which my time slot happened to be the last of the conference. Being an active mariner not accustomed to large crowds, this gave me ample time to let my nervousness fester. Baring a rushed end to my presentation, due to closing comments from Public Works deputy minister, I think the ideas were well received from the thin crowd.

The bulk of the attendees from the Ottawa area (government), were of course centred on the still developing NSPS program and its management. The Canadian Coast Guard and Public Works Canada had a decidedly prominent presence, overshadowed only by the Navy’s presence. Conspicuously missing, sadly for my conference objectives, was Transport Canada representation. As a matter of fact, I did not even hear of one single person, currently working for Transport Canada, attending the conference, even though the conference was held on a weekday in Ottawa, less than fifteen minutes away from the main TC offices. Also absent, were Canadian ship operators and major west coast organization, the exception being PMC and BC Shipping News magazine.

The CIMARE National council AGM occured during the Mari Tech

The opening day’s morning highlight was M. Peter Noble, the president elect of SNAME, and Chief Naval Architect with Conono Phillips. His extensive knowledge and experienced
in the commercial shipping world, offered a stark contrast in approach to shipbuilding management then that from the Canadian government’s position, as discussed in the featured panel.

BC Ferries might have been missing from the attendance rolls, but probably played a prominent role in the conference’s focus on safety, on the afternoon of the first day. M. Wendy Tadros, Chair of the Transportation Safety Board (TSB), presented a keynote speech, introducing the core values of the TSB, by extensively using the Queen of the North investigation as a working example. Her comments that the TSB actively dismisses “easy blame answers”, and openly strives to keep “digging deeper”, to find the ultimate conditions for an accident to occur, I found it to be encouraging. Her presentation was followed up by several discussions and papers, on safety and its culture, within the industry. The general consensus seemed that a greater amount of personal ownership and an increase enforcement of existing regulations is required.

On the evening of the first day, we were bused to the lavish and historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier, where the large and enthusiastic crowd enjoyed mingling together to the Navy’s string band. After the gala dinner honouring the late J. Douglas Hearnshaw, Rear Admiral Mark Norman, of the Royal Canadian Navy, gave an insightful speech in which he praised the engineering community for its endeavours to keep them sailing.

MariTech 2012 gala dinner at Chateau Laurier in OttawaThe second day’s morning, feature more of a navy shipbuilding focus, with some interesting concepts offered from our friends south of the border. The afternoon featured numerous papers in various spaces. My “free beer” comment interestingly failed to draw a huge crowd to my presentation, owing to the fact that they’re were so many other things going on.

Obviously these events present technical papers and discussion, allow service and equipment manufacturers to display their wares, all to improve our wisdom, but ultimately best part is to connect face to face with our peers, and meet new one. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many people that were new to me, and took the time to seek me out.

Next June, the Atlantic Branch of CIMarE will host Mari Tech, June 25 – 27, 2013 at the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel, Halifax. From what I understand there is already a good deal of interest expressed by exhibitors, so that is good to hear. 

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