Official start of the end of Canadian seafaring

Attached is a press release by the European Ship Owners, gloating about the exciting new opportunity that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will represent to their businesses. Meaning this is the official start of the end of Canadian Seafaring.

Specifically mentioned in CETA, and boasted in the owners’ press release, is dredging activities. I am a Chief Engineer on one of the few dredging ships working in Canada, so this of course has direct implications for me and my family. I understand that Transport Canada has admittedly dropped the ball (no big surprise there) and “forgot” to consult, or did not adequately solicit Canadian companies input in drawing up the text of the agreement. The drafts made no mention of dredging in particular, so the companies who dredge in Canada where surprised to find it in the final text and are unhappy about it.

Essentially the Trudeau government agrees to open dredging project tenders to European operators (the biggest dredging operators working worldwide are based out Belgium, Brussels and the Netherlands), if the value of the project is more than 7 million dollars. It’s not to say Canadian companies can’t compete, but the fact that Canadian seafarers pay income taxes on world wide income, whilst most international seafarers don’t, puts the Canadian bid at a major disadvantage, right off the bat.

It’s not that I have anything against having my Marine Engineering peers from Western Europe working in my backyard, while I wave at them from the beach, but the thing of it is, these companies don’t even hire their professionals from their “own” nations. The large majority of the seafarers on board are, non Europeans for starters, exploited seafarers, working for unrealistic wages.

Van Oord’s dredger Volvox Terranova, Credit

The jobs on these ships are going to pay international = lower wages, mainly due to the fact that the crew don’t pay income taxes. But even if I wanted to accept these terms, just try to send a resume to European shipping company; most don’t even have staffing offices in Europe. Don’t get me wrong, there is a protected market there for European seafarers, but do you think I will have a chance to compete for those jobs? So its not like it will be reciprocal agreement – for us Canadian to work in European waters.

And on the topic of taxes… where do you think the majority of the funding for these dredging projects comes from, yup, that’s right, taxes, yours (if you are Canadian resident) and my taxes. Of course, forget about decent working conditions that supports a family, like equal time leave, reasonable length contracts, when the seafarers can be sourced from war torn countries, they can easily be exploited, to work many month contracts.

Credit – From the interwebs

For many years Transport Canada has put “stick in our spokes” as far as career progression goes. It’s antiquated certification system has assured a near zero growth of “home grown” marine engineers, so I guess this is the next logical step for them, and their masters, to kill us off. The Ministry of Finance has made sure we remain noncompetitive, by taxing foreign going Canadian seafarers as if working in Canada, thereby limiting us to this highly squeezed Canadian market. Then the Canada Transportation Agency has been very active in undermining the whole marine industry in Canada – from shipyards, suppliers and seafarers – by routinely approving foreign ships to work in Canadian waters. While the Canada Border Service has headlong, been very happy to accept non tax paying, exploited seafarers to man those flag of convenience ships working in Canada – which incidentally is another maritime “gig” I lost in Montreal.

Now, the crowning moment for our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to finish what our dear leader Harper started, and sign these “trade deal” like CETA. Our government has traded away all our raw resources for cheap – ie, raw logs being shipped out instead of processed in Canada, which incidentally is another maritime “gig” I lost in Vancouver. Now, even work, paid directly by taxpayers, such a port maintenance and dredging, will go to non tax paying companies and their exploited foreign workforce. Think you are safe as a Canadian seafarer working on a ferry, generally paid by taxpayers, think again.

Credit – From the interwebs

I would be okay with some aspects – give and take, for the sake of my neighbor – if for some reason there was something good to come of these for someone else. No one has presented me with a convincing argument that these trade deals, in particular CETA, is “good” for an average guy like me, trying to feed his family. After 30 years of these “deals” the result to me is: diminishing purchasing power, “increased productivity”, zero wages gains, and constant “gigs”, because gov keeps pulling the rug from underneath me, I am fed up and very frustrated.

Thanks for letting vent, as it seems it is the only thing I can do.

This article has 1 Comment

  1. Dear Gents
    My name is Marko and I planed to move to Canada with my family,I’m a seaman with 14 years experience in E/R present covered position as 3/E.Do you know any website where I can apply for the job?
    Many thanks in advance

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