Convictions, Canada and the IBU

Longtime reader and big fan of gCaptain. I’ve read all threads I can find on the matter, and am hoping that you all can help clarify and/or find a workaround for my situation:

The licensing process has been long, costly and tedious, but I recently received my AB, and am interested in working in the PNW/Alaska region as deck on Tug/Workboat or WA Ferries.

I went to register at IBU, and was basically told that my AB ticket didn’t mean $%#, that I needed a laundry list of additional endorsements, and that if I’m not eligible to enter Canada, then “maybe this isn’t the industry for you”. That was not the scenario I had hoped for, and I walked out of there feeling pretty demoralized. I’ve since re-grouped and am moving forward in the hope that I can still break into the industry in this region.

What the nice lady at IBU told me I needed:

[ul]
[li]RFPNW – In the process of acquiring currently [/li][li]VPDSD – Will take the class and acquire [/li][li]AB Seafarer Deck – in concert with RFPNW [/li][li]Ability to enter Canadian waters – THIS is the part that I’m trying to work around…(alcohol related vehicle conviction…NOT a DUI however, if that makes any difference) [/li][/ul]

While the additional endorsements are another PITA, I can acquire them with [B]more[/B] time and money. The Canada issue, however, leaves me with questions:

[ul]
[li]Is a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) a viable work-around for entry? [/li][li]Is it worth the time/money to even register with IBU, given the conviction? [/li][li]Are my employment options, industry-wide, severely limited? [/li][/ul]

I understand that the industry is in somewhat of a “gloom and doom” phase at the moment, but I’ve gotta believe that I’m not the only person who is/has this type of situation. How are sailors working around the problem??

Thanks for your ideas, experience and input!

You can have a DUI or similar felony conviction as an AB and work on a vessel that travels THROUGH Canadian waters but doesn’t stop at a Canadian port (the technical term for this is “Innocent Passage”). Many vessels travelling to Alaska go through Canadian waters on innocent passage, and many of those vessels have U.S. crew members with DUI convictions. The problem occurs when a U.S. vessel drops anchor or ties-up to a dock in Canada. At that time, the vessel must go through the Customs/Border control process, and you wouldn’t pass, causing an embarrassing and costly delay for the tug company. The Canadians are infamously strict on this point. Since IBU could provide workers for U.S. tugs stopping in Canada, you can see why they would be reluctant to employ you.

You can petition the nation of Canada to get a waiver for this, allowing you entry. The process is neither quick, cheap or easy, however. You will need to contact a lawyer that specializes in this, and you must go through the process on an annual basis, or every few years. I know a deck officer who has been doing this for years. Also, the conviction has to be quite a few years in the past. Spend some time Googling the process. But even if you get the waiver that doesn’t necessarily mean the IBU will accept you. They set the employment rules. Check with them. My guess is some of their officers go through the waiver process (not to single them out).

TRP? I know nothing about it. But I do know that if you have a DUI conviction in the U.S. you’re not getting into Canada for any reason, no way, no how, except by the process described above.

A DUI doesn’t really affect you if you just work in U.S. waters, except in regards to the USCG licensing and certification process. If your DUI was X years in the past (I forget how many) and you did your time/paid your fine, the USCG, in general, won’t have an issue with it. Just be certain to note the conviction on your certification application. Failure to do so will torpedo your application–they know ALL.

You’re going to need RFPNW, VPDSD and Able Seafarer Deck no matter what, so get those.

Now how wedded are you to the idea of tugs?

If you wish to work offshore you may need to broaden your outlook a bit, try the SIU in Tacoma or the SUP in Seattle.

AS far as that goes how wedded to the PNW are you?

Shipping is better in both LA and SF.

Be aware that for tugs shipping is better in the spring.

You could also try one of the headhunters.

Keep in mind that being picky about jobs when starting out in the maritime industry is a very bad plan, keep looking, grab any job you can.

Yeah, I had an uncle, a non mariner, who would make annual road trips on his Harley when he was alive. His group planned a swing in to Canada. He had a 15 or 20 year old DUI conviction that stopped him dead in his tracks at the border.

Thanks for the replies. I appreciate the input!

While I’m not only looking at PNW Tug/Ferry work, I do live here, so initially those avenues seemed most obvious–WA Ferries more so. Since this is my first real foray into the industry, the options seem endless, which is appealing to me AND somewhat confusing/overwhelming. I am not wedded to Tugs and/or the PNW and, in fact, am talking to SIU/SUP this week. I am also interested in R/V, MSC, etc, so any advice on these would be appreciated as well.

@DavidMT when you say shipping is better in LA/SF, does that mean that I’d need to be in the union at those locations?

You might consider Alaska Marine Highway, too. I once talked my way into one of their ECRs. The crew told me that, for the most part, they are based in Juneau. However, once you are working for them, if you can find a crewmate with your same duties who wants to, you can live in Bellingham. That is to say, some Of them arrange their crew changes in Bellingham, rather than Juneau.

For your Canadian problem, try talking to these guys: contact@cbsa.gc.ca (Border Security). They can advise you about your eligibility to enter the country and can adjudicate an appeal, if you want.

Yes I was referring to union shipping,if you join one SIU or SUP and work the hall you will likely ship, [B][I]if[/I][/B] you’re willing to take any job offered, so you may need to sail OS for a while

If you have a DUI figure on 7 years after conviction before they will clear you to enter into Canada and you do usually have to go to the boarder and clear that up in person or as stated with a lawyer.

I’ve had two failure to take a chemical alcohol test convictions and have been to Canada several times since and worked there aboard a tug. They are both older than seven years though. I’d suggest attempting a border crossing then when in Canada staying a few days and come back. Of course stay out of the mounties hair while there and then you have a history of entering. In the least you’ll have better than speculation information should you get turned around at the border.