Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rise In Ship Traffic Slows Port

Increased traffic at the Port of Vancouver is causing slowdowns at local terminals and tension between the employees' union and the employers' association. The number of ships calling at Vancouver's terminals along Burrard Inlet has increased to the point where some ships are waiting days before they can be serviced, said Bernie Dumas, general manager of sales and marketing with China Shipping (Canada) Agency Co. Ltd. "What we're faced with now is the ships are coming in, and where it would normally take them a day or two days to load and discharge, some ships are sitting here for a whole week," Dumas said in an interview. "The last couple of months it's been pretty disappointing for all the carriers." Darcy Clarkson, president and CEO of P&O Ports, which operates Centerm located in downtown Vancouver, said the summer months are often slower because longshoremen, like everyone else, like to take vacations when their kids are out of school. But the growth in traffic has exacerbated the problem this year. Longshoremen are not scheduled shifts, but instead are assigned work out of a union hall. Those who wish to work arrive at the hall at a given time, but those who want the day off need not report in. Some days fewer workers show up than are needed, Clarkson said. Frank Pasacreta, president and CEO of the B.C. Maritime Employers Association, said Vancouver's inner harbour terminals are the busiest they've ever been. And while his organization and the ILWU have been "doing everything humanly possible to try to service that work" some issues have arisen in the past two weeks that have exacerbated the problem, Pasacreta said. The two groups are at a "critical point" in trying to resolve the issues, but Pasacreta refused to say what those issues were.

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