Standoff Still on Between Canada, U.S.-Owned Ship

Negotiations have resumed to try to end a standoff on the high seas between the Canadian government and a U.S.-owned ship transporting Canadian military equipment, but officials today saw no sign of progress.

A show of force by two Canadian warships has failed to get the owners of the GTS Katie to bring the equipment into port, or to convince the private Canadian contractors that hired vessel to resolve their commercial dispute with the ship’s owners.

The Katie is carrying C$223 million ($151 million) worth of tanks and other military equipment, along with three Canadian soldiers monitoring the supplies, back from Kosovo.

The owner, Maryland-based Third Ocean Marine Navigation, ordered the ship to stay put Tuesday, about 100 miles off Newfoundland’s southeastern tip, when talks aimed at ending the bitter commercial argument broke down at midday.

Those negotiations resumed Tuesday night and continued today, Canadian defense spokesman Alastair Mullin said, but with no sign of a resolution.

Mullin said the warships, which are alongside the Katie, would make sure the equipment and soldiers were safe, adding they also demonstrated Ottawa’s determination to recoup the shipment, which should have docked in Quebec in mid-July.

“I think what it does is keep all of our options open,” he said.

In the meantime, the government is pursuing what it calls “legal, commercial and diplomatic options.”

Diplomatic Maneuvers

Diplomatically, foreign affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron said the Canadian government got St. Vincent and the Grenadines — the Caribbean nation where the Katie is registered — to repeat its order for the vessel to sail to port.

The U.S. State Department has been kept informed because Third Ocean is a U.S. company, but no other diplomatic moves were under way and no requests made of Washington, Doiron said.

Montreal company SDV Logistics Ltd. won the contract to bring the equipment home for $895,000, and subcontracted it to another Montreal firm, Andromeda Navigation, which in turn hired Third Ocean.

The dispute is primarily between Third Ocean and Andromeda and centers on whether Andromeda will pay Third Ocean and whether Third Ocean had a responsibility to bring the ship in regardless.

Each side bitterly accuses the other of foul play, while Canadian Defense Minister Art Eggleton draws fire at home.

“It is time for the government, and minister Eggleton, to force the companies to own up and pay up so that we can get our people home,” Conservative member of Parliament Elsie Wayne said in a statement.

“Ottawa cannot afford another fiasco of this sort,” The Toronto Star newspaper commented in an editorial.

“Military officials will check much more thoroughly before entrusting Canadian Forces equipment to private shippers, and draft future contracts much more carefully,” the paper said.