American vessel operators have been lucky in 1974. They have escaped at the eleventh hour from a threatened strike of marine engineers which would have tied up virtually the entire fleet. Then too, there have been problems in the northern mines, but this has not produced insurmountable problems.
The Canadian shipping firms, however, have really taken it on the chin. On Thursday, August 8th, unions representing marine engineers and deck officers pulled their men out on strike. Vessels proceeded to their destinations or to the handiest nearby ports and there they have stayed ever since. Only a handful of tankers remain in operation, these including ships of the Imperial Oil, Johnstone Shipping and Liquilassie Shipping fleets.
Fortunately, the strike had the effect of lessening the impact of the forced closing of the Welland Canal due to the STEELTON accident, but that is surely the only beneficial result. Many of the smaller shipping companies are casting nervous glances at their balance sheets and wondering how they will come through the loss of such a large portion of their operating year.
As of mid-September, the union representing the deck officers had reached a tentative agreement with the companies, a rather hefty wage hike being included in the package, but at the time of this writing (Sept. 23) ratification had not been obtained from the membership. In addition, the engineers seem to be far from settling their dispute, and so the vessels could well be tied up for quite some time to come barring government involvement in the dispute.
(Ed. Notes As we go to press with this issue, we learn that certain fleets are now back in operation as a result of the deck officers accepting the new wage agreement. These fleets, however, are only those whose engineers are not members of the striking engineers' union, among them being Upper Lakes Shipping and Texaco, both of which had their ships ready to go on September 26th).
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.