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NEWS RELEASE December 14, 2006

BC Shipyard Workers' Federation makes formal submission to federal government opposing BC Ferries' request to avoid $17 million duty for importing Greek-built ship MV Sonia to replace sunken Queen of the North

VANCOUVER – The BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation has made a formal submission to the federal government opposing BC Ferries' request for a $17 million duty remission for importing the Greek-built MV Sonia, the replacement ferry for the sunken Queen of the North.

In a letter to the International Trade Policy Division of Finance Canada, the Federation argues strongly against duty remission, saying that BC Ferries could have leased the MV Sonia or a similar vessel to temporarily meet the needs of ferry service on BC's north coast while a ferry was built in Canada.

“It is outrageous that BC Ferries is spending almost $1 billion either building or buying ships in foreign countries instead of creating jobs and investment in our own country,” said Federation President George MacPherson. “So we are completely opposed to the federal government rewarding BC Ferries' behaviour by exempting existing rules that charge a 25% duty on importing foreign ships to Canada.”

MacPherson said he expects Finance Canada to uphold longstanding duties that promote jobs and investment in Canada 's shipbuilding industry and protect the industry from unfair foreign competition.

“BC Ferries has no case to make for avoiding paying duty on the MV Sonia or on other ships it will be importing to Canada,” MacPherson said. “BC Ferries knew all along what the rules were and why they exist – to discourage companies like BC Ferries from building ships overseas. And BC Ferries has had to pay duty when it imported foreign-built ships in the past.”

“We believe that our opposition and that of the Canadian shipbuilding industry will help ensure that BC Ferries pays the full duty like any other company would have to,” MacPherson said.

MacPherson said the MV Sonia, which was operating on a lease basis in the Caribbean prior to being purchased, or a similar ship could have been leased until a new vessel was built in Canada, ensuring that north coast communities had full ferry service. And he said that the duty paid by BC Ferries will help pay for federal programs that support Canada's shipbuilding industry with research and development and construction financing.

The Shipyard General Workers' Federation previously fought BC Ferries' 2004 decision to build three new Super-C Class ferries worth $542 million at a German shipyard without allowing BC shipyards to make a final bid on the project.

“BC Ferries, with the full support of the BC Liberal government, threw away 5,000 direct and indirect jobs where BC workers and businesses would have been paying taxes and creating jobs here in our province instead of in Germany,” MacPherson said. “Not only is BC Ferries hurting our economy and the shipbuilding industry but they are also increasing the costs to BC Ferries customers, because it would be cheaper to build those ferries here.”

The MV Sonia is expected to arrive in Victoria on Monday or Tuesday for refitting at Victoria Shipyards.

For more information: Call George MacPherson at 604-254-8204 or cell 604-220-3291 or Bill Tieleman, West Star Communications, at 604-844-7827 or cell 778-896-0964.

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