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Seaspan's tugboat strike impacts seven ships in Port of Vancouver

Union job action delays cruise ship Celebrity Eclipse from leaving Port of Vancouver. Movements of four cruise ships and three freighters has been impacted.
Seaspan Tug
The union representing tugboat captains walked off the job at Seaspan Thursday. Movements of several cruise ships and freighters have been impacted.

Four cruise ships and three bulk freighters in the Port of Vancouver have been prevented from leaving or arriving at port on time or getting bunker fuel when expected during the first several days of a strike by Seaspan tugboat captains and crew, according to the Port of Vancouver.

Those issues have "since largely been resolved" according to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

But not before around 2,500 passengers on board the Celebrity Eclipse vented their displeasure at the delay on social media Sunday, saying they were being held 'hostage' on the ship.

The problem was apparently caused after Seaspan workers left a barge tied up to the huge ship, then refused to move it.

The issue was eventually resolved and the ship was on its way by Monday afternoon.

A port authority spokesperson said the port "continues to work with multiple parties, including Transport Canada, toward swift resolution of operational delays."

About 14 ships a day require escort and berthing help from tugboats in the Port of Vancouver and Seaspan is one of four tug-assist providers and one of two bunker suppliers in the port.

Unionized tugboat captains walked off the job on Seaspan tugs and barges Thursday over a contract bargaining dispute with the company.

The Canadian Merchant Service Guild represents ships’ captains and engineers who work on tugboats that provide assistance to ships docking in the port as well as on barges throughout the south coast.

The union posted a notice on its website Thursday announcing contract negotiations with Seaspan’s marine transport division had reached an impasse and a strike was beginning at noon that day.

Seaspan is one of the largest tug and barge operators on the coast, providing help in ship docking, oil tanker escort and emergency towing.

According to the company’s website, Seaspan operates 30 tugboats and is one of the largest tugboat operators in the Port of Vancouver.

Contacted by the North Shore News, the union declined to provide a comment on the strike.

Seaspan provided an emailed statement Friday saying the company has been in contract negotiations but "despite our best efforts, and with the assistance of federal mediators, we have been unsuccessful in reaching an agreement with the Canadian Marine Services Guild."

The company added, "We are working to resolve the issues and minimize any impacts to our customers and the broader industry."

The company had no substantial update on Monday.

According to Seaspan, the last contract with the union expired in 2019.

In addition to it tugboat operations, Seaspan’s marine division operates a fleet of more than 100 barges that provide service to many of B.C.’s largest industries.

The strike is not impacting Seaspan’s other operations, which include Vancouver Shipyards and Vancouver Drydock in North Vancouver and Victoria Shipyards in Victoria.

– with files from Brendan Kirgin, Vancouver is Awesome

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