Good afternoon. My name is Sarah Clark, and I serve as president and chief executive officer of Fraser River Pile & Dredge, located in Vancouver, British Columbia. Our company proudly conducts dredging operations in B.C. and across the country. I would like to thank the chair and the honourable members of the committee for hearing us today.
I'm actually here to speak to you on behalf of a coalition of dredging companies that operate from coast to coast. I'm going to share my time today with my friend and colleague Jean-Philippe Brunet, the executive vice-president of corporate and legal affairs for Ocean group of Quebec. We sincerely thank you for the opportunity to present our views on the consequences of amending the Coasting Trade Act as outlined in Bill C-49. For us, this is a fresh opportunity to be heard on the impacts of the amendments to the Coasting Trade Act, an opportunity we previously had in respect to amendments to the same act, under Bill C-30, the Canada-E.U. comprehensive economic trade agreement implementation act.
To be very clear from the onset, the Canadian dredgers are eager to compete in a marketplace fuelled by healthy trade relationships. We simply ask that we continue to compete on a level playing field, where risks and opportunities are equal for all. Unfortunately, CETA was a bad deal for Canadian dredgers. There's no reciprocity for us in the European market, but there's streamlined access for Europeans in the Canadian market. We therefore submit that Bill C-49 represents an ideal opportunity to address this inequity and provide workable policy solutions.
Let me say a few words about the dredging industry in Canada and the critical role it plays for Canada as a maritime and trading nation. Ours is a geographically expansive country that relies on a complex transportation network to move people and goods. As stated by Minister Garneau on May 16 of this year, Canadians rely on the economically viable modes of transportation to travel and move commodities within the country, across the border, and to our ports for overseas shipments. At his announcement regarding the trade and transportation corridors initiative on July 4, Minister Garneau highlighted the digging of deepwater ports as being critical to the development of Canada's north, underscoring the essential role dredging plays in the creation and maintenance of our transportation network and, as a result, our national and economic sovereignty.
Opening routes to Canadian and international shipping vessels brings consumer goods to Canadian markets and takes our export products around the world. Without dredging, ports in major cities across the country would be inaccessible to global trade and transportation. Industry operations, both coastal and inland, would not be able to function. The companies that comprise our coalition actively comply with rigorous government regulations concerning labour, environmental protection, safety, and operating standards while regularly submitting to routine major inspections that are amongst the most rigorous in the world. Canadian dredging companies also provide well-paid, middle-class salaries, which in turn fuel local economies across the country.
We are here with you today to do our part to ensure that the Canadian dredging industry is provided a level playing field on which to compete sustainably and responsibly, to create more jobs, and to continue to contribute practically to Canada's economic success. Unfortunately, these important goals have been put at some risk by the effect of the proposed amendments to the Coasting Trade Act contained in Bill C-49. Proposals in Bill C-49 are of course contingent upon the coming into force of elements of Bill C-30 on September 21, 2017. We understand that the spirit of CETA reflects the wishes of both governing bodies and peoples to create better economic ties and a more prosperous future. We support the government's effort to expand trade and to make our economy as vibrant as possible. At the same time, we wish again to express our concerns about the negative impact. We believe the amendments to the Coasting Trade Act contained in Bill C-30 unfairly advantage foreign dredging companies at the expense of Canadian firms, Canadian workers, and ultimately, Canada's transportation infrastructure. Bill C-49 builds on a foundation laid by Bill C-30 that is highly problematic for Canadian dredgers.
As I've said, we are fully prepared to compete. We do so every day in our industry, both in Canada and abroad. Under CETA, there was no negotiated reciprocity for our industry.
CETA opens up the Canadian market to European firms while keeping the European market closed to Canadian dredging firms. This would normally be considered an unpleasant by-product of doing business in the global market, but several factors intervene to create a situation where non-Canadian firms could gain a structural and market advantage over Canadian firms. If a level playing field is not created and maintained, Canadian dredging companies will face structural disadvantages when bidding on contracts, as we pay market rates and benefits that reflect the skills of our crew members in Canada.
For example, foreign crews are typically compensated at about a third or less of the rates we pay. In 2015, the average monthly salary for a chief engineer on a Canadian vessel was $15,000 U.S., while the same position on a Dutch crew was about $7,000 U.S. As salaries represent about one-third of our vessel's operating costs, non-Canadian companies will operate at a significant advantage over Canadian companies, leaving Canadian seafarers out of work. In this scenario, the playing field is inherently uneven, to the detriment of Canadian companies, and, ultimately, to our employees and their families.
Prior to Bill C-30, foreign-flagged vessels were required via the Coasting Trade Act to obtain a coasting trade licence. Jim outlined that process very well in his presentation, which would include paying duties, and following shipping conventions, worker visa requirements, and employment standards. However, even that structure faced monitoring and enforcement challenges. Under CETA, non-Canadian dredgers will have greater access to our waters, and therefore greater opportunity for non-compliance.
Before making our key recommendations, I will now ask my colleague, Jean-Philippe Brunet, to say a few words about Quebec in particular.