The $1.5 million dollar deckhand

The Trans Mountain pipeline was / is a project in Canada, that takes Alberta oil sands oil to a marine terminal in Burnaby, in the neighboring province of British Columbia (BC). With very little benefits to BC, and significant risks, it was overwhelmingly rejected by the public in that province. As a result, the Federal Government which campaigned on being a climate friend, paid a handsome price to the American company that was about to drop the project, all in a bid to please the oil industry in Alberta, where bets are taken as to which disease will spike highest, syphilis or covid.

Essentially, I am now part owner of an unfinished oil pipeline; well, at least the debt, as I am sure once it is built and what ever money it generate will be privatized once again – but i digress. Never-mind as well, that the pipeline goes through some towns, still smoldering from climate change driven wildfires, but again, I digress. One of the big challenge was to sell this pipeline to BC, of course there is very little benefit to BC as the oil, once it reaches the terminal in Burnaby, where several employees, Bob, Larry, and Jimbo work, will then be loaded onto Flag of Convenience tankers, non Canadian crewed, non tax paying tankers, and then off to Asia, burning HFO380.

On the bright side, the oil spill response capacity has been boosted in BC, if and when one does sliced open on the numerous reefs of the BC coast, there will appear to be a response. A few tugs, a few pilot jobs, but overall, the big winners will be the oil traders in London, Singapore, or wherever the new tax haven is these days, they are sure to get a bonus. As you can see the federal government needs to protect these close friends, so they bought the pipeline, stuffed Transport Canada with “Communication People” and embarked on a sales job called the OPP – Ocean Protection Plan.

Using public money, uhhh, federal debt, (again, a win for those traders and bankers) the OPP by Transport Canada would probably love to claim that they have increased soothing sounds of purring cats by over 57%, along with the other neato looking efforts they are doing. Basically, they are throwing grease (money) at all the squeaky wheels.

One of the components, “decisive action” to increase Canadian seafarers – after all we are going to need about 12 of them, maybe even a pilot or two. I write this because because one of the places effectively tackling the shortage of seafarers in Canada, is a privately run maritime school, located near Nanaimo – Western Maritime Institute. WMI is currently led by Capt. Badior, who is a long time maritime professional, with deep insights from many different aspect of the maritime world.

He sent me a copy of inquiries he had sent to Transport Canada, and the official response he got from the lead federal agency in charge of transportation in Canada. My eyebrows went up about 2 inches reading the response. Mind you I was probably most surprised they actually responded in a letter, rather than a Tik Tok video or Instagram post, you know, to keep up with all the cool kids, and TC being the leaders they are, strive for that exposure for their experts.

So here is Capt Badior observation’s of the maritime training component of Canada’s Ocean Protection Plan:

Nothing to see here, everything is normal at Transport Canada

Hi all the link is to Transport Canada’s latest missive (dated 22 July 2021) on the Ocean’s Protections Program (OPP) and how great a job the Federal Government is doing with this $1.5 billion taxpayer funded program:

Of particular interest to mariners trying to advance their careers is the section where Transport Canada speaks to the Marine Training Program (MTP). That’s the program that spent over $24.7 million on trying to get what Transport Canada called ‘under-represented’ groups into the marine industry. The Feds sure poured a pile of money into this MTP program. The funding was spread out as follows:

BCIT/Camosun about $6.2 million

Nunavut Fisheries Consortium about $12.6 million

NSCC about $5.9 million

The pitch below from the TC document dated 22 July is after two and a half years of Transport Canada’s Marine Training Program running.

From Transport Canada’s latest document we learned:

“Indigenous communities have unique historical and cultural ties to Canada’s oceans that span generations. As part of the Oceans Protection Plan, we’re partnering with Indigenous peoples across the country to improve our marine safety system. As of March 2021, we have held over 1,600 engagement sessions, including over 1,199 engagement sessions with Indigenous groups, to modernize marine safety and environmental protection in Canada.
Together, we have:

  • Created the Marine Training Program to help underrepresented groups (Indigenous peoples, Northerners, and women) access marine training. The program is offered at the:
    • British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), in partnership with Camosun College has seen 67 students complete the Bridge Watch Rating Program.
    • Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium has seen 150 students graduate their program.
    • Nova Scotia Community College has seen 4 students graduate so far.”

Thank you, Transport Canada for sponsoring all these people into the industry. It is interesting when one does a cost breakdown of each BWR, it works out like this (using TC’s own numbers after 30 of the 36 months of the OPP MTP):

The BCIT/Camosun team produced 67 full (Bridge Watch Rating) BWR’s at a cost of very close to $92,500 a piece.

Nunavut produced 150 that graduated their program (I note the document does not state that they are BWR’s)  at about $84,000 per student.

Nova Scotia Community College produced 4 graduates at about $1.5 million dollars each.

The full Bridge Watch Rating Program costs about $10,173.00 at Western Maritime Institute and we produced 154 fully qualified Bridge Watch Ratings in the same time period as the Transport Canada OPP MTP program did. Those students with a couple of exceptions all paid their own way and almost all of them are working today.

The entire $24.7 million of the Transport Canada OPP MTP funding went to institutions that are already publicly funded. All are members of the Canadian Association of Marine Training Institutions (CAMTI) which are all the taxpayer funded Marine Institutions in Canada which will not allow non-taxpayer funded schools to join. No taxpayer funding at all went to so called ‘private schools’. The Western Maritime Institute OPP MTP proposal developed a domestic cadet program (which still does not exist today). Our concept was to try to help ‘unclog’ the log jam of existing deck officers and sailors who cannot get sea time or any funding support at any level to progress their careers. I also remind all that ships cannot run without good Engineers and in my opinion the shortage is even more critical with those professionals. Transport Canada didn’t even mention them in OPP and still has not at all for OPP V2.0.

The Federal Government continues its decades old policy of not supporting existing mariners in any way shape or form.

Did Transport Canada get value for our tax dollars? You be the judge.

PS the funding numbers came from here: and here

Now, I am under no illusion that the federal government is there to look after the welfare of the whole nation, or that Transport Canada exist to do anything than what the narrow special interest want them to do. After all they are critically understaffed and underfunded, and cant think outside of those priorities. All I can say is that I have heard from a long list of professionals within TC, that are dismayed by the lack of leadership and support within the organization. It is clear that “communication” and “policy” folks are in charge at TC, and that the federal government and it’s lead agency in the marine transportation sector are wholly lacking any vision and even less action.

There is a reason why there is no mention of assistance for engineering programs in Canada, never mind long term career development – after all, the Bridge Watch Rating is nearly an introduction to a career at sea – it takes about 14 years of training to become a first class engineer slightly less for Master Mariner. I am not sure how TC plans to address the shortage of Marine Engineers or even if they realizes that there is a challenge there. Canadian ship operators are realizing it, but their answer, which I expect will be TC’s answer, is to recognize foreign certificate ASAP – and we are well on our way to that now. Maybe that’s why TC wont even try to foster Canadian capacity or waste a second on it, as evident with the lack of STCW2010 directives, despite being introduced by IMO well over a decade ago.

In the mean time the Federal Liberal Party of Canada which forms the Canadian Government, uses public debt to raise their political fortunes on numerous files, appeasing special interests, while selling a pipeline that nobody wants in BC.

So clever, makes me feel like I should make a Tik Tok video!

what, me, worry?

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