The work of marine dock workers has always been a "hands-on" business.
In the early days that meant hauling goods on and off ships with heavy loads borne on the backs of burly stevedores.
But with advances in technology the "hands-on" aspect today often refers to gripping a steering wheel, joy stick or lever to operate a large piece of machinery to move goods
back and forth down on the docks.
And to educate today's workers on how to run the equipment a new marine safety and training centre was opened last Friday on the western end of Mitchell Island.
The 4.7 acre Waterfront Training Centre is run by the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) and features a variety of training opportunities, ranging from cranes that operate along the waterfront, to heavy lift trucks - essentially, massive fork lifts - which move cargo containers.
"Our industry has shifted to the point where about 60 per cent of the workers now work in mechanized jobs at the ports," said John Beckett, BCMEA's vice president, training, safety and recruitment.
The facility will train British Columbia port operations employees in a controlled environment, enabling the safe delivery of a diverse set of training programs at a single site.
At the training facility, the BCMEA will provide simultaneous training of several programs through exercises which resemble live operations.
The initial development will allow for the delivery of training programs from various sectors including containers, "breakbulk" - which includes logs, lumber, pulp and steel - and bulk.
Prior to the new Richmond facility's opening, training sites were dotted around the province and Lower Mainland.
During the opening event, tours of the three state-of-the-art classrooms were given and live demonstrations were performed for the visitors.
"By encouraging the creation of training projects such as this one, I am confident that our government is helping all Canadians to benefit from the critical work of the men and women who staff our marine facilities and keep our ports and the marine transportation system safe and efficient," said federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.
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