Barge workers strike threatens to shut down B.C. coastal logging

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VANCOUVER, BC — B.C.’s coastal logging industry could grind to a halt within a week if the province’s tug and barge operator strike, which began on Friday, is not quickly resolved.

Coastal logging operations, which stretch from Vancouver Island up to Prince Charlotte Island are completely dependent on water transportation..

“If (the strike) is will be more than week it will be the catalyst to shut down many of our operations on the coast,” confirmed Less Kiss, vice president of the Coast Forest and Lumber Association. “To get people and machinery out we need tugs and barges and to get the lumber out and to the mills we need water transport. We are dependent on it completely.”

Kiss added there are no contingency plans because of the need to keep inventories low. Even if there was another way to get machinery and people into the logging areas, the strike at the Port of Vancouver would make it impossible to get the lumber to key markets such as Japan.

He added that the strike comes at a time when his industry was looking to get off its knees after two years of hard times. Last year, he said, coastal shippers were able to harvest just 55% of their allotment.

“This will knock us back down,” he said.

About 30,000 people, including truck operators, are employed in the coastal logging industry.

About 800 B.C. tug and barge operators with the Canadian Merchant Service Guild began strike action Friday after negotiations with their employers’ group broke off at midnight Thursday.

The Council of Marine Carriers warns 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.

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

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