Mr. Lewis-Manning welcomed all those that were able to attend the meeting and explained that the purpose of the meeting is to share information on the impacts and challenges being experienced as a result of COVID-19.
Ms. Gee advised that the most significant change since the last meeting on March 16th, 2020 is the announcement of cross-border travel restrictions being put into place. Only essential travel will be permitted between the US and Canada, and this includes the movement of crew joining a ship, aircraft and train in an effort to keep trade moving across the border. The restrictions are expected to take effect Friday evening.
Transport Canada has issued two Ship Safety Bulletins since Monday. One on the extended validity of Marine Personnel Certificates and the other supporting the ability for crew to take shore leave.
All Ports remain open and fluid.
In the Port of Vancouver, anchorage demand remains high; however, fluidity is being maintained including the inner harbour. Slight modifications to bunker operations protocols supporting social distancing are being put in place as well as temporary procedures at trucking gates to maintain social distancing. The Port has implemented an internal COVID-19 task force. Requesting people to stay away as much as possible to maintain the health and safety of their staff, however the 24/7 operations station is open. Port Pass offices shut down at noon today and port passes expiring in the next 6 weeks will automatically be extended for 30 days. The Port of Vancouver port pass at Canada Place will be on Wednesdays to process Marine Transportation Security Clearances and any emergency port passes. The Trade & Development department will be circulating an update later today.
BC Coast Pilots advised they were maintaining a skeleton crew in office. BCCP have developed a COVID-19 Document which would soon be circulated. They have been advised that there will no longer be Air Canada flights to Prince Rupert, however wished to emphasize that they will work around this to ensure that pilots remain available to service vessels in the north. The BCCP were also seeking clarification for reporting of ill crew members while vessels were at anchorage. Transport Canada confirmed that the expectation is that vessels will advise of symptoms at any time during their stay. BCCP advised that Captain Stewart, Captain Haakonson and Paul Devries were available if need be.
BCMEA advised that local 500 dispatch of casual members had migrated to a telephone dispatch where possible to reduce numbers in the hall. BCMEA in-house staff are working from home. The BCMEA is working with terminals to limit gatherings of the workforce, as an example staggered lunch.
Various terminals operators confirmed that operations have not been disrupted as a result of COVID-19. Efforts to sanitize common areas, provide for social distancing and less interaction are on-going. Non-essential visitors are being deterred at the terminals. GCT made particular note of Transport Canada’s exceptional handling of a recent non-COVID-19 incident that had occurred at one of their terminals.
Carriers are reporting that operations remain un-interrupted. Vessels are abiding by the International Chamber of Shipping on protecting the health of seafarers. Non-essential visitors are also restricted from accessing vessel.
Agents raised concerns with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors’ concerns raised this morning with the lack of social distancing available on the water taxi and launches. Clarification on this recent development was being sought as no official announcements or bulletins had been received.
Transport Canada is actively working to resolving the crew changing challenges and advised that the Chief Public Health Officer has just signed off on a notice confirming that vessel crew is exempted from the travel restrictions. An official notice would be broadcasted shortly, and this can be shared with crew members travelling to Canada with the appropriate seafarer’s documents. Regionally, 90-95% of Transport Canada’s employees are working from home, and essential inspections will continue to take place. Transport Canada will look into the launch requirements in view of the need to provide for social distancing and noted that everything possible was being done to protect the health and safety of their employees and inspectors in order to balance health issues whilekeeping the economy and supply chain moving.
Transport Canada reminded everyone that masters must declare in advance any crew member that are ill, and advised that the same requirement applied to any vessels that have already arrived. Ship Safety Bulletins had been sent out advising that marine personnel certificates that were due to expire would be extended for thre months.
**Update** This evening Transport Canada released the following two Ship Safety Bulletins:
- Ship Safety Bulletin 06/2020 – Marine Crew Deemed Essential
- Ship Safety Bulletin 05/2020 – Deferral of the Canadian Cruise Ship Season until July 1, 2020
CFIA advised that they are continuing Grain and Asian Gypsy Moth (AGM) inspections along with working with staff to protect them and their families during this rapidly changing time. Employees and inspectors are practicing social distancing, and discussions with respect to the separate launch requirement is part of the process. The CFIA will be sending out a notice shortly. There is a reduced the number of ship inspectors who will be out on a rotational basis to maintain current level of service. Grain inspections are essential in supporting the continuation of trade. AGM inspections will continue at anchorage for uncertified vessel. CFIA will keep the Shipping Associations updated as the situation evolves.
BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure advised it appreciates the ability to participate and is prepared to assist with Provincial issues as needed.
Information Gaps and Questions
Labour – It was noted that there had been a positive case of COVID-19 affecting a working in the Port of Houston, which had resulted in two terminals being shut down. There was also a report of a non-confirmed case in Montreal which had resulted in a work refusal.
Spill Response – WCMRC advised that they were response ready, and that the emergency line was open if required. All employees were working from home, with daily health fitness checks being conducted.
In closing, Mr. Lewis-Manning thanks everyone who was able to connect to the conference call for attending and noted importance of following policy and procedures both currently in place and under development. A Record of Discussion would be made available in due course.