I was asked if I could offer some advice about finding a quality ship operator in Canada. Quality to me, means that you feel good about working with them, you have the resources and the backing to do your job well and safely, which would also mean for a long time down the road. I.E. You don't feel like quitting after every hitch, your not cutting corners, you don't have to ask for toilet paper (yes, that has happened to me) you're not afraid to take apart a pump to fix it, knowing you have the resources to fix it properly.
I can be a bit depressing, and I am coming up on the end of my six week at sea, so take the comments below with a grain of salt, but let me know what you think, pros and cons.
Q. I have followed your website and blogs intermittently for many years, and I see many similarities between our career choices such as: Coast Guard, Fisheries, tugs, and deep sea. I also have many of the same frustrations with the Canadian marine industry and Transport Canada certification system. Do you have any recommendations for employment opportunities in Ontario or Quebec? Should I try McKeil?
A. Yes, to work in the Canadian Marine Industry is a bit of a masochistic exercise, as my twenty years at sea will attest to. You say, you can’t find a quality operator in Canada, well neither have I. The closest, from my outside observations is probably Oceanex, but past performance is no indication of future performance, and management changed about 8 yrs ago, but they seem to be consistent still.
McKeil has recently changed ownership from what I understand, which can only mean worse than before, since at least before you could approach the owner and he was a real person. They are short of people for sure, but the management there are either suckers for punishment, or making allot of money and therefore make unrealistic demands on performance. Desgagnes is mostly owned by banks, and their only priority is money, they are cheap and disrespectful; Groupe Ocean is too small. CSL and Algoma, well, what can you say, they are cheap, cheap, and if they could, they would probably charge you for the pleasure of working for them, kinda of like Seaspan. I am not sure about Atlantic Towing, I think they pay well, but I’m not a fan of their social standing in Canada… their Oligarch attitude is a bit much. Switzer is on the up and coming in Canada (again), but because of their size (being part of Maersk) they compete on global stage and will balk at paying a Canadian living wage, so they will probably get foreign crews before long, shoreside I think they already are.
Not sure about Marine Atlantic, and there is a bunch of smaller operators all across the country that offer interesting work, but because of their size, pay and stability is an issue. From what I can tell the money and jobs is offshore NF and NS, but these positions, with Maersk, Secunda, etc, and the O&G crewing (for the few position on the many FOC vessels working in Canada), are rife with nepotism so quality is an issue. Teekay might be the bright spot there, but then again there is a rich history in that market, and certainly a lot of legal formalities, but with your NF background this may not be a hindrance.
With all that commentary, one has to ask, are we being realistic about “quality”… does it exist? I would say yes, and the closest company I came to, that had it, was Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, but then again they didn’t pay. Mostly because of the nature of their workforce, which don’t need to pay income taxes in their home countries, unlike Canadians. Another words, I have work for a quality operator, and I don’t see many of those traits here in Canada.
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