B.C. coast hit with tug and barge operator strike

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VANCOUVER, BC — Truckers involved in picking up from the Port of Vancouver, still reeling from the effects of intermodal delays, have been hit with another whammy: about 800 B.C. tug and barge operators began strike action Friday in a move certain to affect transportation across the entire B.C. coast.

Negotiations between the Canadian Merchant Service Guild and the employers’ group broke off at midnight the union’s strike deadline.

Pickets went up Friday morning at the Seaspan offices in North Vancouver. The Council of Marine Carriers says the strike will shut down 75 per cent of shipping operations in B.C. and will have a devastating impact reaching across Canada. It also warns that grocery shipments to the Island could be affected as could shipments of valuable forest products and fuel.

“It always pours when it rains! First the CPR backlog, and now this,” was the exasperated comment from George Kuhn, head of the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association.

The strike could cost $100 million a day in lost business, according to officials from the Port of Vancouver.

The strike action has not completely shut down tug and barge activity, however.

There are still five tugs operating in the Port of Vancouver, according to the Vice President of Marine Operations with the Pacific Pilotage Authority. Kevin Obermeyer said the employees on five of Tiger Tugs’ boats do not fall under the same contract.

The Pilotage Authority also says tugs are still operating in northern ports.

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