• Saturday, December 15, 2018

Vessel registration in a time of restraint...by W. Gary Wharton, Bernard LLP - Subscriber Access Only

By BCShippingNews 14 October 2014

Under the Federal Government’s Strategic Operational Review (SOR), the Federal Government mandated that the Vessel Registry be centralized in Ottawa by April 1, 2013. Prior to this initiative, the registration of larger vessels was handled by regional offices, with a total of 17.5 Registrar positions. As a result of the SOR, the number of Registrar positions handling large vessels was reduced from 17.5 to nine full-time employees.

Transport Canada has conceded that the large number of transactions and the need to fill vacant positions (resulting from incumbents who did not wish to move to Ottawa with their positions) has resulted in unexpected backlogs and slower service timelines.

While the need to reduce the deficit and cut costs is laudable, the dramatic reduction in regional offices and situating the only office in Ottawa, where virtually no substantial commercial vessel transactions take place, is a fairly drastic response.

In an attempt to “sell the sizzle”, Transport Canada states that: “Bringing all registry activities together in one place will allow us to modernize the way we do things, offer uninterrupted service and provide a single point of access to clients for all Ports of Registry.” It has not been possible to determine exactly how the Registry proposes to modernize and improve by physically isolating the one remaining Registry from Canada’s commercial maritime centres and by cutting staff dramatically. If there is a plan, it has not been clearly communicated.

The closure of the Vancouver Ships Registry in January 2013 has resulted in much delay in standard vessel transactions in British Columbia. Below is a summary of how the centralization of the Registry in Ottawa has negatively impacted the efficiency and certainty of vessel transactions, including new registrations, transfers, and ships mortgages.

Obtaining information from the Registry