Small Commercial Vessel Association

Ontario Region

CMAC presentation March 28, 2012

Honorable “CMAC “ members :

Thank you so much for allowing us your time today on relatively short notice.

We are a newly formed group of Small Commercial Vessel  Operators who would like to take this  opportunity to express a number of  concerns on Federal regulations affecting our industry . Our group is mostly comprised of Marine Contractors , Marina & Taxi Boat operators , Tour operators , Property Managers , Camp operators & Construction Support service providers.

Many of us have been working on Georgian Bay , the Great Lakes  / inland lakes across northern Ontario , the Muskoka Lakes and Parry Sound District for decades, and in some cases for two and three generations and possess considerable nautical skill &  experience.

Construction is a challenging and dangerous profession that requires significant training and experience to safely execute work on Road Accessible projects.

When Construction and the provision of related services occurs in water access locations using small work boats , landing and deck barges etc. , it adds exponentially to the complexity of performing  work safely .

In a recent Transport Canada power point presentation in Port Severn , we learned that approx. 78 % - 80 % of commercial vessels are considered “small commercial vessels”  under 15 GT , yet very little support seems to be available to this industry .

“Principal operator certification and training “

We have observed that most of the TC regulations appear to be aimed at larger ocean going and great lakes cargo and charter vessels. In particular, the “Principal operator certification and training “ is for the most part not relevant to  smaller vessels in our industry . Many of our members have been diligent in acquiring the available training offered in the TC sanctioned MED A-3 and SVOP courses and in a few cases Maters Limited 60 GT licenses.

Almost without exception ,the graduates of these courses have commented that the course syllabus was helpful relating to general marine safety , lifesaving , fire fighting and navigation and helicopter evacuation from large ships , but fell extremely short in providing meaningful education around the proper loading & lashing of loads and safe operation of  landing and deck barges.

Our power point presentation illustrates the kinds of vessels and operations that are prevalent in our service areas .

It would be our hope that TC would consider the possibility that in the best interest of protecting the public and small commercial vessel operators, that new courses could be developed in collaboration with our industry.


These courses could be an amendment to the existing  Med-A-3 & SVOP courses and include many of the protocols and safety measures already used by responsible  small craft operators.

The course could also include training on the use of Sail Plans where by vessel operators report to their designated health safety officers before leaving port/home base with information on the number and identity of passengers , crew and cargo , expected arrival time at their destination and report when arriving safely . The same would repeat in reverse .

More conventional and situation appropriate life saving protocols could be taught that fit challenges facing smaller craft .

In our opinion , all TC certified courses should teach and test actual operator proficiency . Every graduate should be required to demonstrate their competence to an examiner by taking the vessel for which they are trained , through its paces before licenses are granted .

Wheeled Vehicles  , driven on public highways with centerlines  , stop signs , lights and visual aids and regular enforcement available , require vigilant competency testing in their intended vehicle before licenses are granted .

Waterborne vessels can be operated :

-on all classes of waterway , in fog , high winds and high seas with only an occasional spar buoy to guide the way while dodging  other unskilled individuals possessing PCOCs , Med A-3s & SVOPs who have never had to prove their competency in the presence of a qualified examiner . HUH ?

“One size should fit all

The responsible small vessel operators in the region of Ontario have for the most part have embraced the requirements put in place by Transport Canada for small commercial vessels however due to lack of awareness and enforcement , many operators are staying “under the radar “ We all realize that there has to be a standard established and ther industries are governed to provide consistency and appropriate standards.

Over the last few weeks our members have tried to understand the requirements that are going to be put in place regarding  Med –A-3 , SVOP  and Masters Limited 60GT.

Currently , 5 GT  seems to be the limit for SVOP certification. Operators are often using vessels under 5 GT to stay under this limit simply because of regulation , and lack of access to an operator having Masters Limited 60 GT license .

We would submit that an experienced operator of a 5GT vessel  who have demonstrated their competency ,are easily capable of operating a vessel of 10 or 15 gross tons  safely and efficiently.

In most cases if the operator were permitted to operate  a vessel up to 15 GT , they could perform their duties much safely and with less repetitive trips/voyages in cases where materials are being delivered to a nearby destination . Fewer trips = fewer departures and landings = Lower chance of incident .

A vessel up to 15 GT is also much more stable when encountering rough seas due to wind or other vessels throwing large wakes as is often the case when operating on Great Lakes , Georgian Bay or the Trent Severn waterway.

In these areas , non commercial pleasure -craft vessels  over 5 GT and even over 15 GT are often operated ,  by irresponsible & un skilled operators having no more than a Pleasure Craft Operators Card that was procured by their 12 year old on the internet .

Our operators are trying their best to meet the requirements with smaller vessel but would be more comfortable having their staff operate properly sized vessel that enhances safety and control .

Requiring our operators to send their staff to obtain “Masters Limited <  60 GT would certainly create a unreasonable financial burden  and would make it impossible for some business to continue resulting in job losses    

We believe that the size limit for operating vessels with an SVOP license should be increased from 5 GT to 15 GT.

Vessel Self Inspection

We understand that modern day legal circumstances have changed for everyone . No doubt transport Canada have been the center of much litigation as is the case with most governing agencies in these litigious times .

We do not however , understand why TC have apparently abandoned their responsibilities around inspection of Small Commercial Vessels , particularly when by TC’s own account almost 80% of commercial vessels in this country are under 15 GT .

Transport Canada are also responsible for Aviation & land based transportation such as Rail Transport and we do not see any relaxation of inspection and accountability in these areas .

The provinces who regulate vehicular transportation under the High Traffic Act have not moved away from regular mandatory safety checks and vehicle inspections .

Can you imagine how safe our highways would be and how many accidents /how much litigation would ensue if vehicle operators were asked to “self inspect” their own cars and trucks with no regulatory controls ?

The current self inspection brochure and associated check list are simply too onerous and confusing for the average operator . If left in place as is , most operators will not be able to comply either because of confusion or affordability .

In situations where marine related accidents occur , their insurance providers will have a field day with “legal loopholes “ because many operators will not be able to demonstrate that their vessels were in compliance with the current regulations .

One of our members recently hired an experienced  Marine Surveyor to undertake the task  of inspecting 17 vessels between 2 and 5 gross tons because that operator found the regulations too confusing . After two full days of reading the manual and flipping back forth through the subjective and ill organized information , the surveyor was still not comfortable with completing the surveys or providing clear direction to the vessel owner on how to move forward .

We believe that Transport Canada should return to the previous “Ship Safety “ – “Vessel Safety “ inspection programs which was extremely helpful to vessel owners to ensure safety of these vessels .