The hammer drops (on Canadian cabotage)

McCleary’s Spirit, loaded, in Quebec

My gut is big, and not necessarily pretty, but its usually accurate when it comes to intuition. I felt that any day now we would have work for our ship, a product tanker, or something drastic would happen. Well, as it turns out, the latter happened.

If you follow this blog, you’ll recalled that the ship I sail on was recently been laid up in Montreal, with practically the entire crew laid off, because of an apparent lack of cargo. Well it turns out, there is no shortage of cargo, and certainly no shortage of a government that talks tough about protecting jobs, while actually doing the opposite.

For nearly all of July, the powers that be in the Canadian government, have allowed a foreign owned, flagged, and crewed product tanker to operate between Canadian ports, transporting cargo. Below is a letter I sent my shipmates last night, sharing the information and my thoughts…

Dear shipmates…
Going up the St Lawrence Seaway

The Canadian flagged Articulated Tug and Barge Unit (product
tanker) William J Moore and McClearys Spirit remain at Section M3 of the Port
of Montreal, laid up since June 18, 2012. We are fully classed and approved by
Transport Canada and Lloyd’s Register; we have recently passed a Super Major –
Shell – vetting inspection. For many years before today, we have carried
petroleum products, jet fuel, diesel, gasoline, etc, on the waters of the St
Lawrence and the Great Lakes, so what’s up? Why did our crew get laid off? Why
is this tanker not working?

You might be interested to know that right now, the Canadian
Transportation Agency (CTA) is considering a “Fast Track” request by PetroNav
in Montreal, to keep a Swiss flagged product tanker
trading between Quebec and Montreal, and Quebec and Hamilton / Oakville, to
carry Ultramar product out of Levi, near Quebec City. That’s right, you read
correctly, we are laid up while a foreign owned and crewed vessel, which pay no
Canadian taxes, is carrying Ultramar (Valero) product between Canadian ports.
Apparently there is dire shortage of storage space at the
refinery in Levi, which is causing irreparable damage to the economy, which
only a foreign ship can alleviate. Not only that, but the ship already
had a waiver to operate between Canadian ports, this current request is
actually an additional request to trade in Canada.  It’s current waiver,
which started July 03, 2012, was to expire on the 20th, but guess
what, she is currently discharging at Ultramar’s berth (106) in Montreal, and
its July 24th .
KSea Canada, the owners of the vessels, through its technical managers, Vships of
Montreal, have received the request for a waiver as stipulated by the CTA, (a
Canadian ship owner has the right to comment on the waiver request) and had
until this afternoon, 5pm, to respond with objections, if any. So far I have
not heard of any.
  • You can find out more about the CTA and the waivers it
    grants on their website
  • Here
    is the first waiver granted for the MCT Stockhorn… looks like it’s the first
    waiver granted this year to a product tanker in Canada, so woo hoo we’re the
    first…. of probably many more
  • Here is the latest waiver request
Cabotage waiver request are nothing new, especially out in the
Atlantic region, where the offshore industry routinely flaunts Canadians, but I
think this is a pretty scary road to start travelling down allowing this to happen to simple and fundamental ship type, like a tanker. 
MCT Stockhorn from MCT website

The ship, the MV MCT Stockhorn is a foreign ship which does
not pay Canadian tax, whose had 11 defiencies in less than 4 years under PSC
inspections, flying a flag firmly in the Paris MoU’s Grey List… and from a one
ship company…. and Valero has a problems with us carrying their cargo(!?!?!)
Mega Chemical Tankers is the umbrella corporation, based in Switzerland, but
appearing to be of German ownership. 


Valero, parent corporation of Ultramar, who has been applying for annual waivers of foreign
tankers to operate in Canada for years, has finally gotten its way. They say we
are too old, yes, I think so too, but we still meet all requirements set by
regulators. If they are truly concern about age or safety, why don’t they offer
a decent contract, one that would allow a Canadian ship owner to take the risk
on a capital intense endeavour to build a new tanker to service them. Or even
better, why don’t they build and operate their own Canadian ship. 

On the river

I find it hard to believe that a “Fast Track” application,
with its short time frame (which would restrict a proper analysis and response
to such a request), is  really warranted in this situation. The refinery
knows how much they produce, and how much they must move, months in advance, as
a matter of fact, they probably can plan this years in advance. 

With 19 of my shipmates having been laid off, I am not too
pleased with this plan; I suspect, the Captains and I will be losing our
positions shortly as well. Personally, I sort of saw this “writing on the wall”
with the way things have been going, especially when Shell closed its Montreal
refinery in late 2010, but it is still shocking. I will probably be force to
accept another position that will cut my salary by about 25%.

I can’t help to
wonder what ship will be laid up next, maybe Valero, or whomever else, will be
emboldened, and start banning “blue hulled ships” – just because, and once
again apply for waivers because or “dire storage shortage”.

I thought you might like to know…. 


Who’s next?

Most might say this move of importing foreign flagged vessels into Canadian trade was inevitable with global sense of business; especially with the shortage of Canadian seafarers. Perhaps, but it still does not make it right or acceptable.  

This article has 3 Comments

  1. Just few minutes ago, I found out that the second cabotage waiver has been granted. The Stockhorn will be allowed to trade between Canadian ports until July 31, 2012… at which time they might get rubber stamp to just carry on doing that…

    Thanks harper! jobs a number one priority, in spirit of full disclosure, you should have mentioned that it was jobs for those who don't pay Canadian taxes.

    Oops forgot, full disclosure, not your strong point.

  2. Good on you for bringing this up to the attention of those who may be willing/able to “make some noise” on the matter. I was very upset when you told me what was going on, and I can’t believe v-ships/k-sea have not cared enough about saving (their business as well) as the industry of shipping in Canada.

    I admire your dedication to your profession and to your family. The boys really miss you. We'll see you soon – J

  3. Each and everyone of us should be responsible in taking care of what surrounds us, even transportation. It’s not easy to work around such, because it’s dangerous and can be a heavy burden, but if you are well disciplined and follow rules wisely, you can do it well. In any way, thanks for sharing your thoughts! All the best!

    Jerry Brady @ Lambert And Williams

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