Canadian ship owners are facing some serious crewing troubles! Decades of cajoling and bullying labour has resulted in a pointed lack of Canadian seafarers, which is starting to have significant effect on operations. Trying to get young people in the industry is a difficult endeavour, but even retaining crew has become a challenge, with many looking to move away from the industry. My younger peers over at the Loose Lips Sink Ships podcast recently stated it plainly: Canadian companies have no respect for Marine Engineers.
I never understood what the end game was for such treatment by operators and owners. Most would suspect that it was to drive Canadians labour out of the market, and therefore “have to” exploit non-Canadians. This latest move would be a significant step in killing Canada’s already weak cabotage laws. After all, non-Canadians don’t pay taxes and are highly pliable. Don’t accept low wages, get hurt, complain, don’t do what we say; you’re dumped on the beach and “black listed” as soon as possible. You just have to look at DP World’s treatment of P&O Ferries indigenous workers, do you really think we have different oligarchs?
Today, Canada took another step closer to that apparent aim, and I can almost hear a collective sigh of relief from operators: ”pheww!”, we almost had to change our ways… even might have had to raise wages and conditions, provide internet! Yikes.
On March 31, 2022, Transport Canada announced that it is going to issue Certificate of Recognition for Ukrainians seafarers. This is a huge pool of Merchant Marine Officers currently sailing deep sea. Eastern European officers from ex soviet states have been highly sought after, as they are used to being exploited and abused, but still whitish and trained. With their homes on fire, home ports assailed, their finances shattered it’s a great opportunity to scoop them up. A time tested tradition.
I think it’s great that Canada will get a huge boost of officers flooding the Canadian ranks. We need more Maritime Officers, for sure. We certainly need more internationally experienced, highly skilled taxpayers.
Unfortunately, as individuals, they are highly vulnerable and pliable. As a human I welcome my peers; I genuinely hope they find peace and stability in Canada. My peers and I all deserve peace and liberty, and the ability to be fairly compensated for the hardships and sacrifices we all endure.
It wouldn’t be the first time someone calls me cynical, but the reality is that they will not be welcomed as peers, but talent to be exploited. There is a reason that most of the eastern block seafarers returned to their native homes after the initial exodus in the nineties, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Each has their reason, but I suspect if working conditions met the realities of living in Canada, they would have remained here in the first place.
The obvious next question: why doesn’t Transport Canada just open the wholesale issuance of Certificate of Recognition for all STCW certified mariners from everywhere in the world? The process was started several years ago, piecemeal, with Norwegians and French nationals, Australians, etc. With this move, it will be difficult argument against it.
Ultimately I don’t think it will make much of a difference for me as Canadian seafarers. Seafarers have always been a highly vulnerable and therefore highly exploited workforce. This global shortage of seafarers is just the logical end result of pissing on people non-stop. Most that do come to Canada will quickly realize the affordability and taxes are nowhere near what companies compensate for. This is just another temporary delay in the proper recognition that seafaring is a challenging career, and needs to be supported and compensated accordingly.
I do feel allot of pain for marine trainers and their institutions, this may just be the death kneel of their future. I’ve always welcomed a level playing field, and if I can go to Hong Kong and get a chief engineers CoC without having to do Transport Canada ludicrous antiquated bullshit dance, then I would. Cheap Electrician courses in Poland, video delivery of courses in Manilla, why not.
Now, if Canada would match the tax regime; international sailors like Ukrainians get, no income taxes on foreign income from sailing internationally. That would make things interesting, but would be a death kneel for any realistic domestic labour pool. Canadian seafarers do not need to be resident of Canada in order to hold Canadian CoC, or a CoR from the Ukraine.
May you live in interesting times indeed.