It was a Tuesday morning; I was getting ready to ship out to sea, setting my affair in order when I received a call from the Transport Canada Marine Safety (TCMS) office. It had been almost two week since I had call to schedule a time where I might come in to discuss the likelihood that I could upgrade my Certificate of Competency (CoC), under the recently released STCW 2010 guidelines for Marine Engineers, as spelled out in the second issue of the Ship Safety Bulletin (SSB) 05/2017. That morning, on the phone, was a real, live, Transport Canada inspector, after nearly 4 attempts of reaching him over the last two weeks; he was available to review my file, with time available that day. I wasn’t about to miss my chance.
The “banker’s box” next to my desk was full of relevant documents; a pile of testimonials, certificates, reference letters, transcripts, even engineering school work. I had put this together a couple of days after my Marine Advance First Aid course was completed, the last piece of my “upgrade puzzle”. A puzzle I was putting off doing, until “the dust settled” from the introduction of Transport Canada (TC)’s STCW2010 compliance plan, or so I thought. I felt encouraged by one inspector reassuring me that even though the regulations were forthcoming, the SSB was essentially the law – working orders. So I decided to test the waters and apply to upgrade my CoC.
According to the Ship Safety Bulletin (SSB) – not legally backed up by the personnel regulations (which are still forthcoming) – I fulfilled all the requirements to upgrade except for one, my schooling, which was completed before 2008, and the reason for my seeking clarification from the inspector. I had been completing all the training necessary for this, and built up some hope that there was a decent chance of success, hearing of a similar case to mine, who had recently and successfully upgraded his CoC under the new guidelines.
With the closing of seafarer’s service at the Nanaimo TCMS office, all seafarers in BC must either go to Victoria or Vancouver to have certification matters processed. A topic of a previous post, this business decision by “the powers that be” at TC is such a poor decision, since any Canadian seafarers working on ships have no practical way to afford living in these two expensive urban centers. Being one of those seafarers, I have to live outside urban centers to afford a home for my family, but it means the services required to maintain my CoC, results in full day affair that impacts my family considerably.
On the phone, the inspector mentioned being available to review my file, and I was determined to not let this “opportunity” slip by, I told him I could be therein three hours. Luckily I have a flexible partner and kids, so after rearranging our schedules, I grabbed my box of documents, set on the road for Victoria, two hours away.
At the TCMS office the inspector and I had a brief discussion about my plans, and how they fit into the steps laid out the Ships Safety Bulletin – no, not the first one on this topic, but the second one. Once we figured out Table X, of Annex Y, of Section Z, but not under circumstance stipulated in Paragraph V, the inspector felt that I was in the ball park, and could make the application to upgrade my CoC. However, he made it clear that he was only taking the “message”, the actual decision was to be made in Ottawa.
Be that as it may, I filled out the mundane paperwork, really silly paperwork, which took the better part of my two hours in the office. The clerk photocopied 100 or so pages for the file. I left feeling like there might be the possibility that after 22 years working at sea I might be able to upgrade my CoC without jeopardizing my family life. After all, the upgrading system as stipulated in the SSB, is very similar to the way the rest of the world has been producing Marine Engineering Officers for well over a decade, so I was cautiously optimistic.
Alas, mine, and my family aspirations of furthering my career, and securing a better future have once again, been dashed, and placed on hold.
I started seeing rumors of it on The Common Rail, then, here on The Monitor, and finally I received my very own call from TCMS office last Friday. The Ship Safety Bulletin of May 2017 had been rescinded; and my application is now, essentially, dead in the water.
In customary fashion, TC has not provided any context or insight; nor am I sure what caused the need for a course reversal. But judging from the rumblings I am detecting a considerable amount of anxiousness by Canadian Marine Engineers on how this is playing out. It was clear to me that, after so many decades of neglect, the Canadian licensing of Marine Engineering and it’s updating to international standards, was going to be a bumpy ride, and it certainly proving that way.
I am assuming that the goal of TCMS, is to bring our Canadian Marine Engineering certification standards into line with international ones, as agreed in Manila, in 2010, a full seven years ago. One has to wonder of TC’s capabilities to meet its most basic mandates – certifying Canadian seafarers. Perhaps they should consider delegating this task to the Philippines, who seem to be well on top of things.
Transport Canada has removed the SSB 05/2017 from their website, and has added a comment in its place – “A new SSB will follow shortly” – how soon, is anyone’s guess. I have requested further information from Transport Canada, and will share, should it be forthcoming.
Hold on to your hats, the adventure continues…