ARCHIVED - 2010-2013 Strategic Human Resources Plan

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A Window into the Seagoing World

Reference to certain aspects of the seagoing component of CCG's workforce is being presented throughout this plan. This Window will expand on and integrate several elements into an example of Fleet operational HR considerations.

Seagoing personnel (Ships' Officers and Ships' Crew) represent 51% of the total CCG workforce. Shipboard occupations and the related operational environment experienced by mariners are quite distinct from those encountered by CCG’s shore-based personnel. Fleet’s 24/7 operations require the use of different crewing systems based on variations of hourly averaging, where employees work approximately 40 hours per week. Ships remain at sea for extended periods of time; the work is demanding and often performed under difficult physical conditions. Additionally, while seafaring has been predominantly a male career, we are focusing efforts on recruiting more women into seagoing positions. The following table shows CCG’s seagoing demographics as of April 1, 2009.

Table K
National Ships' Crew and Ships' Officers Demographics as of April 1, 2009
Seagoing EmployeesWomenMen
NumberAvg. AgeNumberAvg. AgeNumberAvg. Age
Ships' Crew 1368 45 147 41 1221 46
Ships' Officers 906 45 68 36 838 46

These demographics, while interesting, do not reveal the operational human resource challenges we face in recruitment, promotion and retention. The drivers behind these challenges relate to our unique regulatory environment and seafaring realities.

The Regulatory Environment

Seagoing personnel must meet professional competency requirements (certificates) in accordance with the Marine Personnel Regulations under the Canada Shipping Act (2001). These in turn are based on international conventions adopted by the International Maritime Organization, to which Canada is a signatory. Through CCG Fleet policies we meet or exceed international convention and Transport Canada requirements for professional certification and technical training.

In 2009, CCG’s Ship’s Crewing Profiles (SCP) were developed and implemented throughout the Fleet. These official profiles incorporate the requirements of Transport Canada’s Safe Manning Regulations regarding minimum certification and technical training, with Fleet’s requirement for relevant experience. Unlike most office situations, if a seagoing employee is unable to report for work, his/her replacement must also be qualified in accordance with the Ship’s Crewing Profile before the ship can sail. Finding qualified and experienced replacements on short notice is a regular challenge, thus ensuring we maintain a cadre of certificated officers and qualified crew is an integral part of Fleet HR planning.

In general, our operations at sea are conducted year-round but they do vary throughout the year, both because of climatic conditions and the requirement to remove ships from service for planned maintenance or unplanned repairs. For these and related reasons, Fleet Management avails itself of the flexibilities offered through the hiring of term and casual employees and through acting assignments.

Certificate Demographics

Fleet Management adheres to the same HR principles for its seagoing personnel as those applied to shore-based employees. However, the operational constraints associated with seafaring require us to look at things differently while still obeying the intent and spirit of departmental HR policies and initiatives.

Another differentiating aspect of the seagoing world is that certification and promotion are earned commensurate with the accumulation of experience (sea time) and subsequently passing exams required as part of one’s career progression as a professional mariner. This differs from professional positions ashore, such as a research scientist, where one must first earn professional accreditation (BSc, MSc or PhD) before being eligible for a position.

It typically takes eight years to acquire the requisite sea time needed, along with successfully completing a series of exams, to attain a Master Mariner or First Class Marine Engineer Certificate after graduating from the Canadian Coast Guard College with an entry-level certificate.

With this long lead time, it is essential to monitor the demographics of our certificates as they are the key to meeting the regulatory requirement for each officer’s position on the ship. The analysis of certificate demographics is more than estimating attrition as a function of an officer’s age and number of years’ service, as will be demonstrated in the following example. Simply put, we must consider our current and future requirements for certificates versus our existing inventory and estimate the potential for obtaining higher certificates to meet those projections. A lack of required certificates could result in ships not being able to sail legally.

An Example of an Operational HR Issue – Third Class Engineer Certificate

The entry-level marine engineer holds a Fourth Class Engineer Certificate having graduated from the four-year program at the CCG College. Increased certification – Third, Second and First Class – is required for higher level positions on larger ships, typically with increased horsepower, complexities and diversity of machinery.


Each region must ensure they have qualified and competent officers to meet certification requirements as a function of the vessels operated and the positions on each ship, in accordance with the Ship’s Crewing Profiles. These needs must be projected over several years, given the time it can take to obtain the higher level certificates required for promotion up the ranks.

We will start with a quick snapshot of the current requirements and availability of engineer certificates for two regions, and then turn to the demographics.

Tables L and M present the cumulative net gap between the number of Engineer certificates available at that level and the number of certificates required. In fact, the tables indicate that many of our engineers possess higher level certificates than required for their positions. Since higher certificates meet the requirement for lower ones, the bottom right-hand number in the table – the cumulative net gap – indicates if the region has a sufficient number of certificates to meet mandatory requirements under the Canada Shipping Act. Table L shows that Quebec Region has 15 First Class certificates and needs 8, for a surplus of 7. They require 9 Second Class certificates and have 24. The net surplus is therefore the sum of required First and Second Class minus the sum of available First and Second Class, or 22. The region needs 8 Third Class and has 12, so the net surplus increases to 26. However, they have a need for 38 Fourth Class and have only 19. Because many of their engineers in positions requiring the Fourth Class have Third (or higher), the net surplus An example of an operational HR issue - Third Class Engineer Certificateof 7 would appear to be adequate for now. We will revisit this later.

Table M presents the same information for the Newfoundland & Labrador Region. The pattern is similar, except that overall the region has a net gap of three certificates, resulting from the need for more Fourth Class certificates. Again, this appears, on the surface, to be manageable.

Table L
Cumulative Representation of Engineer Certificates – Quebec
Engineer Certificates
(Ships' Officers)
(by Certificate)
Cumulative Net Gap
First Class 15 8 7 7
Second Class 24 9 15 22
Third Class 12 8 4 26
Fourth Class 19 38 -19 7


Table M
Cumulative Representation of Engineer Certificates – Newfoundland and Labrador
Engineer Certificates
(Ships' Officers)
(by Certificate)
Cumulative Net Gap
First Class 28 14 14 14
Second Class 21 20 1 15
Third Class 19 11 8 23
Fourth Class 22 48 -26 -3

The problem is that these tables show only the current situation and do not account for the demographics of those certificates (and in turn the officers who hold them). We will illustrate the increasing complexity by using the example of Third Class certificates.

Figure 1 displays the demographics of the Third Class certificates in Quebec Region. There are 12 certificates and the stacked histogram shows the sum of the age and number of years’ service of each employee. Overall the graphic presents a logical picture: the number of years’ service and age descend together. In the Public Service, eligibility for retirement is based on the sum of the employee’s age and number of years of service. The yardstick for retirement eligibility is typically 85 years as depicted by the red dotted line. However, many of our officers are CCG College graduates and their employment in the Public Service of Canada began when they enrolled at the College, so they may reach 30 years’ service before their 55th birthday (the earliest at which they can begin to collect a pension). Hence for seagoing personnel it is more likely that the total of 90 years for age and service represents a more realistic indicator of retirement eligibility, as shown by the blue dotted line.

Figure 1
Third Class Certificates as a reflection of Age and Years of Service (Ships' Officers) – Quebec

Figure 1 Third Class Certificates as a reflection of Age and Years of Service (Ships' Officers) – Quebec

Using the 90-year criterion, 30% (21) of active Engineer certificates in Quebec will reach retirement eligibility in the next two years, the majority being First and Second Class certificates. The net surplus of 7 certificates for the region would be reduced by 21 retirees, resulting in a projected gap of 14. Ongoing recruitment of entry-level certificates from the CCG College will reduce the gap, but may not provide engineers with the certificates required at the mid to higher levels.

In Newfoundland & Labrador Region (Figure 2) and using the same 90-year criterion, 19% (17) of all active Engineer certificates will be eligible to retire over the same period leading to a projected gap of 20 without taking into account any incoming certificates (entry-level engineers). New recruits will reduce – but not eliminate – this gap and, again, they may not be at the required levels.

But factors other than retirement based on age and length of service contribute to attrition, and the figures should be revisited in this context.

We use the example of the need and availability of employees with Third Class certificates in Newfoundland and Labrador. At first glance it appears that outside of the six certificates soon eligible to retire, there is a comfortable margin (68%) of certificates available, and that the sum of age and years of service is much below 90. However, these Third Class certificates (and employees) are also coveted by:

  • CCG Integrated Technical Services (for increased maintenance requirements under the Vessel Maintenance Management Review Program - VMMR);
  • Major Crown Projects (as project directors, project managers or technical experts for the development of specifications and contract management);
  • Transport Canada (Technical Inspectors);
  • PWGSC (procurement);
  • and private sector employers and organizations.

Additionally, others may choose to leave for a period of time to start a family and raise children, or new vessel construction may result in new, larger ships replacing smaller vessels (with increased levels of crew and higher certification).

Figure 2
Third Class Certificates as a reflection of Age and Years of Service (Ships' Officers) - Newfoundland and Labrador

Figure 2 Third Class Certificates as a reflection of Age and Years of Service (Ships' Officers) - Newfoundland and Labrador

All of these situations are good for employees and the organizations in which they choose to pursue careers, but they are all recruited from CCGÂ’s pool of seagoing marine engineers and they must be replaced. In Newfoundland & Labrador alone, Third Class certificates represent 50% of all other engineer certificates lost to attrition over the past five years. This rate of attrition is expected to be consistent over the next few years as our mid-level certificates leave the vessels. Consequently, what initially appeared to have been a very stable situation is evolving into a serious vulnerability. The next section will discuss how important good succession planning is to mitigating that vulnerability.

Succession Planning for Seagoing Personnel

Succession planning involves the determination of requirements, outreach, recruitment, promotion and retention, with as accurate an estimate as possible of attrition rates projected over many years.

Fleet recruits marine engineers from different sources. The first, and most obvious, is through the CCG Officer Training Program at the CCG College. Graduating officers will have obtained their entry-level Fourth Class Engineer Certificate (or Watchkeeping Mate for navigation officers).

These officers have received all of the theoretical and practical instruction needed to attain the highest certification in their respective disciplines. Graduates of the Engineer program will have to accumulate 12 months of sea time (typically taking two years) before they will be eligible to write the necessary exams to obtain their Third Class certificate. Thus it takes a total of six years to “grow” a Third Class certificate, starting as a first-year Officer Cadet.

Remember that Tables L and M showed that the requirement for Fourth Class certificates was virtually met when higher certificates were taken into account, although Newfoundland & Labrador had a net gap of three certificates. Figures 3 and 4 show the demographics of Fourth Class certificates in Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador regions. Overall there appears to be a significant number of Fourth Class certificates well under the projected 90-year line. While some engineers may successfully obtain their Third Class certificates, and thereby reduce the projected gap in Third Class requirements, the total pool of Ships’ Officers with Third and Fourth Class Certificates may not be sufficient to meet the combined need. Fleet is therefore embarking on an initiative to generate mid-level certificates in a shorter time-frame.

Figure 3
Fourth Class Certificates as a reflection of Age and Years of Service (Ships' Officers) - Quebec

Figure 3 Fourth Class Certificates as a reflection of Age and Years of Service (Ships' Officers) - Quebec

Figure 4
Fourth Class Certificates as a reflection of Age and Years of Service (Ships' Officers) – Newfoundland and Labrador

Figure 4 Fourth Class Certificates as a reflection of Age and Years of Service (Ships' Officers) – Newfoundland and Labrador

Many of our Ships’ Crew already possess their Fourth Class Engineer Certificate, which they obtained by their own initiative, based on the sea time and the experience they have gained as Engine Room Technicians or Assistants. These employees have already demonstrated they possess the aptitude and initiative to warrant professional certification. They have made the commitment to a seagoing career and therefore represent a potential source of higher level certificates and career advancement as Ships’ Officers.

Continuing with the Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador Regions, our analysis (see Figures 5 and 6) indicates that there are sufficient Fourth Class certificates to offset the net gap. But we still need the right levels of certificates, not just a total number.

Figure 5
Fourth Class Certificates as a reflection of Age and Years of Service (Ships' Crew) – Quebec

Figure 5 Fourth Class Certificates as a reflection of Age and Years of Service (Ships' Crew) – Quebec

Figure 6
Fourth Class Certificates as a reflection of Age and Years of Service (Ships' Crew) – Newfoundland and Labrador

Figure 6 Fourth Class Certificates as a reflection of Age and Years of Service (Ships' Crew) – Newfoundland and Labrador

There are 22 Ships’ Crew in each of these regions currently in possession of a Fourth Class Engineer Certificate. While many of these employees have the potential to attain higher certification, the jump from Fourth Class to Third Class Engineer is significant, requiring formal study and the application of elements in physics and advanced mathematics. Graduates of the Officer Training Program have acquired this knowledge through the four-year program. To meet the immediate and mid-term need for specific certificates, in accordance with operational requirements and to provide needed flexibility in the future, CCG is developing a Ships’ Crew Certification Program.

The Ships' Crew Certification Program

The Ships' Crew Certification Program will be complementary to the Canadian Coast Guard Officer Training Program at the CCG College. The latter is our established program to provide all of the theoretical and practical training needed to meet the knowledge elements for exams to receive all certificates up to Master Mariner or First Class Engineer. With this formal training and the accumulation of the required sea time, many officers who graduated from the College are expected to climb the ranks to the senior positions in their respective disciplines. As has been discussed, this process takes a considerable amount of time and commitment from our officers. The Ships’ Crew Certification program offers a short-term solution and flexibility to fill lower and intermediate certificates with qualified, experienced and committed Ships’ Crew.

Depending upon the certificates required, a detailed syllabi will be developed including, among other subjects: physics, mathematics, and CCG Operations to prepare selected Ships’ Crew to write requisite exams. The framework for this program has been created and it is expected that the modules for the high priority Third Class Engineer certificate will be developed and we will begin implementation in FY 2010/2011. The program will be expanded to include a navigation (deck) component as a function of Fleet’s requirements and availability of suitable candidates. Candidates will be selected based on their request in their Individual Learning Plans and Performance Reviews and on the recommendation of the Commanding Officer or other Senior Ship’s Officer. If additional sea time as a watchkeeper is required for eligibility, arrangements will be made to provide that experience on ships within the home region or extended to other regions.The Ship's Crew Certification Program

This initiative will thus serve two purposes: it will provide one source of suitable certificated and trained Ships’ Officers while providing career development and progression opportunities for interested and qualified individuals. The program will also strengthen our retention strategy as it draws upon employees who have already made a commitment to a seafaring career, wishing to advance their careers, and have demonstrated the capacity to do so.

The Ships’ Crew Certification Program will form one of the key elements of succession planning for seagoing personnel. But proper succession planning requires the judicious balancing of accurate analysis of future [certificate] requirements in tandem with the implementation of recruitment and outreach, employees’ career aspirations, and retention strategies.

Fleet Management will continue to analyze the status of our professional certificates in FY 2010-2011 and ensure that a proper plan for succession is put into place in each region. The primary focus will be on ensuring that employees who have accumulated requisite sea time continue to prepare for, and subsequently write, required exams to obtain higher level certificates, through the Deck, Engineering or Logistics streams.

FY 2010-2011 will be another challenging year for Fleet. Nevertheless, we are committed to providing Canadians with the highest level of maritime support to our at-sea activities by living up to and practicing our motto of “Safety First– Service Always”, while continuing to advance and nurture our most valuable asset– our people.