This ‘is an important step in protecting seafarers both at home and abroad’
Transport Canada, in collaboration with the Canadian marine community, has announced the establishment of the National Seafarers’ Welfare Board to promote maritime workers’ access to recreational, cultural and medical services, as well as shore-based welfare facilities.
“The Government of Canada recognizes the essential role seafarers play in our economy and remains a strong advocate for the safety and welfare of maritime workers. The creation of this new National Seafarers’ Welfare Board, in partnership with Canadian marine industry stakeholders, is an important step in protecting seafarers both at home and abroad,” said Marc Garneau, minister of transport.
The board will act as a forum for coordinating seafarer welfare in Canada. It will also advise the government on policy and regulatory issues such as shore leave and crew changes.
The board is composed of representatives from labour unions, marine missions located in ports across the country, ship owners, terminals, ports and agents representing foreign vessel owners in Canada. Transport Canada will act as a secretariat providing coordination and support for the Board’s meetings and activities.
Transport Canada recently issued a new Ministerial Order under the Rail Safety Act to restrict train speeds based on cold temperature conditions and released the 2020 edition of its Emergency Response Guidebook.
Debbie Murray, of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, will serve as the board's first elected chairperson.
“The establishment of the Seafarers’ Welfare Board, facilitated by Transport Canada, will be an important and much-needed mechanism for systematically integrating the ongoing collective efforts of many stakeholders to improve seafarers’ welfare in Canada,” said Murray.
Co-chairing with Murray are Peter Lahay, of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, and Dr. Jason Zuidema, of the North American Maritime Ministry Association.
“Seafarers are essential workers. Having a national, multi-stakeholder forum supported by Transport Canada that is dedicated to improving Seafarers’ welfare, sends clear and positive signals to the mariners I interact with daily that Canadian marine stakeholders care,” said Lahay.
“Seafarers’ welfare charities are a vital link for visiting mariners and are present in many Canadian ports. These charities work hard to support seafarers’ access to physical, mental and recreational resources. Having a means to formally connect with marine stakeholders through the Welfare Board will enhance those efforts,” said Zuidema.
Seafarers are responsible for safely operating the vessels that move 80 per cent of the goods Canadians use every day, according to Transport Canada.