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Labor shortage looming on the Great Lakes

Apr 05, 2019 02:28PM ● By Editor

Photo:  Michigan Public Radio

By Bill Sawchuk of The St. Catharines Standard - April 4, 2019

With one in five seafarers set to retire in the next five years, Canada's shipping industry could face some choppy waters, says an official with Seafarers International Union.

The union is looking for hundreds of skilled workers to help overcome a labour shortage, says Vince Giannopoulos, seafarers union's recruitment campaign spokesperson.

"When you look at the median age in the industry, it is getting older," says Giannopoulos. "People are retiring faster than others are joining.

"At first glance, it's a negative, but the way I see it, there was a big hiring boom years ago. The guys who were hired stuck around. Now they are all retiring at once. It's a very stable career. We are trying to get ahead of the curve."

The seafarers union represents the majority of unlicensed sailors working aboard vessels on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River as well as the East and West coasts of Canada.

Skilled workers with trades or marine experience have transferable skills needed on board merchant vessels by companies such as and can work for companies such as Algoma Central, which is headquartered in St. Catharines, and Canada Steamship Lines, Giannopoulos says.

"Canada's marine economy is thriving, and more demand for seafarers means skilled workers can earn great pay and benefits in a long and stable career they can be proud of," he says.

Last June, the seafarer's union partnered with the Seafarers' Training Institute to launch a national hiring initiative aimed at recruiting, training and retaining young people.

To read more of this story and related reporting, follow this link to The Standard website.

The union has a website,, with career information.

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