Canadian government under pressure to address crew change stance

The Canadian government is refusing to address glaring holes in how it handles crew changes.

A letter from 12 trade unions was sent to Marc Garneau, the minister of transport, on December 7, with no reply forthcoming after a fortnight.
The letter called on Transport Canada to establish a firm deadline on the crew change crisis.

“Many of the world’s seafarers are now facing their second consecutive Christmas and New Year holiday away from their families and loved ones. They are losing hope, and many are suffering greatly from unprecedented levels of physical and mental exhaustion,” the letter pointed out.

While Canada has done exemplary work to designate seafarers as key workers, facilitate entry visas for foreign crew members joining vessels and has been viewed as a global leader for securing safe passage for some crew members, the unions believe much of the most critical work has yet to be done.

Seafarers must not continue to work on board in excess of 11 months, the unions demanded.

Transport Canada has indicated that they will assist seafarers with repatriation, “when they ask for it”.

“The brutal reality is that many will not ask. It is widely acknowledged that international seafarers are amongst some of the most exploited workers in the world and the simple fact is that most are either too afraid to request assistance in fear of losing their job or are unaware of their right to do so because of the appalling labour conditions they are so accustomed to operating in,” the letter observed.

To account for this reality, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has announced a firm deadline of February 28, 2021 upon which AMSA’s Port State Control will again begin to fully enforce the 11-month limit on duration of service under the Maritime Labour Convention regardless of the status of the Covid-19 Pandemic. As outlined in their decision, there has been sufficient time for ship operators to adjust to the Covid-19 world and develop plans for seafarer repatriation and crew changes.

The Canadian government has been asked to follow suit with Australia and announce a firm deadline upon which Transport Canada’s Port State Control officers will begin enforcing the limit of service without exceptions or considerations of so-called extensions signed by seafarers on board or not. This must be a firm deadline that is enforced appropriately.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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