By Alex Binkley

Cabinet ministers and MPs along with government and transportation industry officials turned out for a reception at the Château Laurier to mark the 110th anniversary of the Canadian Shipowners Association. Among the ministers in attendance were Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, Small Business Minister Max Bernier, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Stephen Fletcher, Minister of State for Transport as well as Larry Miller, Chairman of the Commons Transport committee. Conservative, NDP and Liberal MPs showed up along with Wendy Zatylny, Executive Director of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, Stephen Brooks and Ray Johnston from the Chamber of Marine Commerce and Richard Phillips, Executive Director of the Grain Growers of Canada.

Bernier told the gathering that the federal government “is trying to manage the cost of the regulatory burden on the shipowners. We want to see the industry prosper because of the important role it plays in transportation in the Great Lakes region and along the East Coast. Fletcher said the government understands the uncertainty American ballast rules have created in the Canadian industry and is working on reaching a non-discriminatory and balanced ballast policy with the United States.” The government also expects that “marine transportation will take on an even more important role in the transportation supply chain in the future,” he added.

Wayne Smith, Senior Vice-President of Algoma Central Corp. said CSA has faced many issues ever the years and has worked hard to remain a viable transportation option. He said the U.S. requirements for ballast treatment equipment on all Canadian ships built after 2013 and stringent limits on where older vessels can sail “is a very difficult challenge for the Canadian fleet. We will be working very hard for the next seven months with the government to find a solution to this.” The updating of the Canadian fleet with new ships confirms the industry will have a healthy future, he added.

Louis-Marie Beaulieu, Chairman and CEO of Groupe Desgagnés Inc., said CSA has a long history of working co-operatively with the federal government on issues. He noted that the decision to remove the 25-per-cent duty on imported freighters was a good example of how well the relationship works. He said he has discussed the ballast water treatment issue with Transport Minister Denis Lebel who assured him that the government is working on resolving the issue.

CSA has also launched a revamped web site. On its home page, the Association says the industry “is entering a significant period of opportunity.” New ships with “their significantly reduced environmental footprint, will accentuate the Canadian short sea shipping’s sustainable, efficient and competitive future. Despite these leading edge investments, our industry faces several barriers to growth, with labour shortages and stringent regulations at the top of the list. “Like many Canadian industries, the demographics of our industry suggest that we are not getting any younger and that a large percentage of our most senior and trusted leaders will be in a position to retire within the next decade, the site notes. “Although there is recent success in the recruitment of a new generation of mariners, it will take time for this cohort to develop the requisite experience and certification; planning for succession will be a priority.”

The industry also has to cope with new regulations based on international initiatives that “have unintended consequences that could limit the industry’s attempts to innovate and renew with new vessels. The marine industry in Canada and the United States has never faced a single regulatory and environmental challenge as complex as that associated with the regulation of ballast water discharges. … The marine industry in Canada and the United States remains poised to develop a made-in-the-Great-Lakes solution to ballast water and other regulations, but it will require leadership and collaboration between industry, government at all levels and across borders, and the scientific community in order to develop sustainable outcomes.”

CSA urged the government to identify Canada “as a marine nation if it is to leverage the opportunity before it. The marine industry should strive to continue to increase its visibility with governments internationally, federally and provincially, and collaborate at all levels in order to ensure that governmental policies truly reflect the potential benefits from a vibrant marine environment and economy.”