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A message from James Given

National Flag Shipping, or Canadian Cabotage, is a vital piece of the Canadian economy

Article Featured in the June 2021 Issue of The Canadian Sailor

Over the coming months, we will be partnering with some of our international allies to educate Members on the importance of Cabotage not only in Canada, but around the world, with featured articles in the June issue of The Sailor, and more to come in the future. With one of the largest coast lines in the world, combined with the Great Lakes and St Lawrence Seaway system, Canada should be a Maritime super-power. We hold our own, all due to strong, realistic and enforceable domestic Maritime Policy. The Canada Shipping Act states that all vessels operating between ports in Canada must be Canadian Flagged and Canadian crewed – a safeguard that positions Canada as independent, capable, reliable, but not protectionist. A piece of legislation that created thousands of jobs, adds billions to the Canadian economy, protects the environment and most importantly, guarantees a logistics chain to deliver goods all across the Country. We supply the concrete for bridges and buildings, we supply the salt for winter road hazards, we get the grain/wheat/fertilizer to markets. We deliver the fuel and oil that keeps Canadians warm in the winter and the jet fuel to keep planes flying. There is nothing the Canadian Maritime industry can’t do and do well.

There are always those who would like to see the Canadian Flag removed from our vessels, Cabotage gone and replaced by Flag of Convenience vessels. The same vessels known to exploit crew, avoid taxes, pollute the world’s oceans and destroy domestic shipping around the globe. Those who would like to see the demise of the Canadian Flag use outdated and debunked information to try to sell their ‘snake oil’ to politicians. They make false claims of protectionism and rising costs. The real motives are tax avoidance, cheap exploited labour, skirting national standards on labour and the environment, lax safety regulations and non-existent enforcement.

Canada has a thriving national shipping sector consisting of hundreds of Canadian flag vessels crewed by Canadian workers. Canada, like so many other countries around the globe, has strong national shipping policies on Coasting Trade and acts as proof that these policies do not weaken supply chains, they strengthen them. Strong domestic shipping policy ensures security in the supply chain, provides confidence for shipowners operating under the national flag to invest in tonnage for the future and provides good-paying jobs to thousands of workers. The voices that unite against Cabotage do so only to benefit themselves, not Canadians.

Having Canadian flagged ships crewed by Canadian workers in Canadian waters secures supply chains and ensures the consistent, safe and timely delivery of goods and services to Canadians. Canada is a trade-dependent nation and if the past year and a half has proven anything, it is that taking ownership of supply chains and ensuring there is a capability to import and export critical goods is an absolute necessity – leaving that to chance and in the hands of a foreign operator is of no benefit to Canada and creates a significant and dangerous risk to all Canadians.

Our Canadian Flagged Companies are committed to the Canadians they serve, as are SIU of Canada members. We take our role seriously in not only defending our flag, but making sure we are regarded among the best in our industry around the world. Cabotage is not new, and neither are the veiled actors trying to break Cabotage behind closed doors. Opposition to our Cabotage must be met with firm resistance every time it resurfaces.

The real heart of Cabotage in any country are the seafarers. The women and men who consistently turn up for months on end to deliver the goods. The workforce, who spend months away from home at personal sacrifice to make sure the world keeps turning. The Maritime Industry in Canada is more than just a job to our seafarers, it is a commitment to the Country and its citizens day after day, year after year. A commitment to never let them down, never fail to deliver and never fail to defend their industry from corporate greed and exploited labour.