COS Weekly Newsletter - Friday, 20 March 2020


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          COS Weekly Newsletter
          Friday, 20 March 2020

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Local News


A note from the Chamber’s President:

With Coronavirus cases in Canada nearing 1,000 people, the US and Canada will be shutting down the longest shared border in the world tonight to all non-essential travel. The Government of Canada has advised Canadians not to travel abroad and urged those who are away to come home. People have been instructed to practice social distancing, working from home whenever possible, and large gatherings have been banned across the country. While global trade is still active, there are reports around the globe of port activity slowing down and trucking facing new restrictions. The full economic effect is yet to be seen.
The Chamber has shifted the focus of its effort to responding to COVID-19 and the operational and trade concerns of its membership. As information sharing continues to be crucial during this time of change, the Chamber has established a web-based resource centre for COVID-19 as it relates to shipping in Canada. We are also coordinating a Western Regional Operations Call on Mondays and Thursdays.
It is clear that the welfare of seafarers will be even more challenging and important to continued trading in Canada and globally. The Chamber is participating in a group coordinated by the International Chamber of Shipping to seek global standards and practices for crew welfare and crew changes during this challenging period.
We hope that you are practicing social distancing and taking the necessary precautions to ensure that you and your families are staying safe and healthy through these unprecedented times.

Port of Vancouver Port Pass Update

All designated publishers of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s Port Pass have suspended operations as of yesterday, March 19th at noon. Port Passes expiring over the next six (6) weeks will be extended for 30 days beyond the expiry date in the CAMS system to enable continuation of port operations – this ‘system override’ action will only be performed by VFPA Security. The VFPA Security Office at Canada Place will continue to operate limited hours to facilitate Marine Transportation Security Clearance appointments on Wednesdays from 08:00 to 17:00 until further notice. Note that the VFPA cannot extend the Marine Transportation Security Clearance expiry dates. Sponsorship for MTSC will be done by VFPA during this period.  Questions regarding Port Pass procedures can be sent by email to or visit our MTSC webpage.

BCMTOA names new President and Bob Wilds retires

The BC Marine Terminal Operators Association (BCMTOA) have announced the hiring of its new President, Stephanie Jones who will join the organization effective April 6th, 2020.  Ms. Jones will lead the association’s advocacy and public affairs work with relevant municipal, provincial, and federal government agencies and port authorities.  She joins the BCMTOA from the Ambleside Dundarave Business Improvement Association, where she has served as Executive Director since 2016. She previously held a number of senior positions with Restaurants Canada where she developed and led communications and government relations strategy within the province of Ontario, and represented the industry nationally on food supply. Ms. Jones holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce and a Master’s in Business Administration from McMaster University.
Along with the BCMTOA members we thank Bob Wilds, the outgoing Executive Director, for his tireless service and dedication to the industry through his leadership roles with the BCMTOA, Greater Vancouver Gateway Council, and the BC Maritime Employers Association.  We will keep our fingers crossed that the markets will recover for your (and our) retirement!

Icebreaking delayed in Thunder Bay

The Canadian Coast Guard has changed its original plans for icebreaking in the Thunder Bay area in preparation for the new shipping season. The US Coast Guard's icebreaking cutter Alder was originally scheduled to arrive from Duluth, Minnesota on Tuesday to open up the port, however, the vessel has been delayed so the Samuel Risley will now be dispatched to the Lakehead instead. The Risley is expected to arrive early next week.




Canada ratifies new CUSMA free trade agreement

On Friday, March 13, Canada ratified the trade agreement (Bill C-4) between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States (CUSMA). Canada was the last of the three parties to ratify CUSMA, following the United States and Mexico. CUSMA is set to come into force on the first day of the third month after all countries have given notice of completing the internal procedures required to ratify it. Barring delays due to the current coronavirus outbreak, CUSMA could come into force on June 1, 2020.


US News


Port of Houston operations disrupted

The Port of Houston's two container terminals were shut down for 23 hours after a part-time truck driver was tested positive for COVID-19.   The Port shut the terminals to allow for an investigation by the Port and the International Longshoremen's Association to identify the worker's contacts with other employees.  These employees are in self-quarantine.  The shut down highlights how susceptible the supply chain is to a COVID-19 disruption.


International News


International organizations support seafarers during COVID-19

The IMO issued a video statement from Secretary-General Kitack Lim stressing the vital need to maintain commerce by sea and protect seafarers' welfare in face of coronavirus shut down and addressing the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the shipping industry and the global supply chain.  Also, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) issued an open letter to United Nations agencies to emphasize the vital need for professional merchant seafarers to be granted appropriate exemptions from any national travel restrictions to keep the world's maritime supply chains functioning.  Yesterday, Transport Canada released Ship Safety Bulletin 06/2020 recognizing that marine crew are essential and exempted from Canadian travel restrictions.  We are working with the ICS and other key stakeholders locally to ensure that the crew transfers are done with all precautionary measures for COVID-19 in place.

Cruise companies face tough decision

Concerns over COVID-19 have led to cruise lines cancelling trips. Carnival brands Costa and Princess suspended voyages for 60 days. Both Carnival brands had COVID-19 cases onboard ships, affecting hundreds of people. Cunard and Royal Caribbean have suspended sailings to April 11, and Virgin Voyages’ new ship, Scarlet Lady, has suspended voyages until July 11. Norwegian Cruise lines is still sailing, offering discounted fares, onboard credits and free airfare. Carnival is also offering discounted cruises.
In addition to the company decisions, the Canadian government has banned cruise ships until July, except for the arctic region where there will be no season at all this summer. The Canadian Public Health Agency has advised Canadians to avoid cruise ships entirely. Many other ports and jurisdictions have put restrictions in place. As a result, stock prices for cruise lines are down 60 - 80 per cent over this time last year.

Stena Line layoff 950 workers

European ferry operator Stena Line has announced plans to layoff 950 employees due to travel restrictions imposed amid the coronavirus pandemic. The company has completely stopped operating its Oslo, Norway – Frederikshavn, Denmark route until further notice. The company estimates that passenger operations will not recover before the peak summer season, forcing them to take drastic measures to reduce costs and to secure the continuity of their freight business.


Upcoming Events


Mar 25 - PACMAR/NANS Committee Meeting

Mar 28 - COS Liner Committee Meeting
Mar 30 - ISSC Board of Directors Meeting 
Apr  1 -  COS Board of Directors Meeting

Apr  8 -  ICS Board of Directors Meeting
Apr 10 - Easter Friday - Office Closed
Apr 13 - Easter Monday - Office Closed
Jun  8 -  VGE Golf Tournament



Ship of the Week


March 20 - USNS Comfort

The US Navy Mercy-class Hospital Ship, USNS Comfort is being dispatched to New York City to provide 1,000 beds, freeing up space in hospitals for coronavirus patients. While the vessel is not equipped to handle infectious disease patients, it will be used to provide care for trauma victims, allowing more beds in hospitals for those with the coronavirus. The floating hospital has previously been sent to disaster zones such as Haiti and post-Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Length:  272m
Beam:   32m
Built:     1976
Capacity:   63 civilian, 956 naval hospital staff, 258 naval support staff, up to 1,000 bed patients