Support the SS Master with a National Registry
Below are two avenues you can help us push for a national registry of historic Canadian vessels.
Print this PDF, fill in your information, and mail it to The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez if you prefer mail: Letter to Heritage Canada
Copy/paste this message into an email to The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez if you prefer email.
The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez
Minister of Canadian Heritage
House of Commons
A Proposal for a National Registry of Historic Canadian Vessels
Dear Honourable Pablo Rodriguez,
A significant number of countries around the world including the European Union, USA, Australia and most notably the UK (https://www.nationalhistoricships.org.uk/) acknowledge the importance of all things maritime to their history and development, by the creation of registries of notable vessels. Canada, with the largest coastline of any country in the world and a long maritime history, to our embarrassment, has no such registry.
These registries recognize vessels that have made significant contributions to their national or local histories or which represent a unique aspect of the local boat-building or shipbuilding industries. They celebrate local maritime accomplishments and history.
Given this vast country with diverse maritime industries on its four extensive coastlines (Three oceans plus the Great Lakes), it is important for Canada to fill this significant void in our historical record by creating a National Registry of Historic Canadian Vessels. The creation of this Registry would represent an important step in the documentation of Canada’s maritime history and enable the preservation and restoration of those remaining vessels of historic significance before it is too late. At present the devotees of vessels of distinction must try to find support amongst programs aimed primarily at buildings and similar land-based artifacts.
As a prime example of vessels deserving of such recognition and support, I draw your attention to the SS Master (ssmaster.org) which in 2022 celebrated her centenary. She is, by all records we can identify, the last wooden-hulled, steam-operated tugboat afloat IN THE WORLD! That incredible distinction must be celebrated by the restoration of this lovely little ship in recognition of her contribution to the coastal economy of BC in the first phase of her life, and to the education of the general public to the wonders of steam-driven, wooden ships in the second half of her life, under the auspices of the SS Master Society.
The establishment of a National Registry of Historic Canadian Vessels would be an important first step in creating more public awareness of the importance of shipbuilding and marine transportation to the economy and the growth of Canada. This could lead to a network of regional maritime centres where historic vessels are celebrated by locals and visitors alike, and where they are cared for and restored by a new generation of young shipwrights trained in the fine art of classic shipbuilding and ship repair. History, training, tourism and jobs… a combination not to be missed!
Minister Rodriguez, please take the earliest possible steps to fill this critical void in the Canadian historical record.
Print this PDF if you wish to mail it in: BC MLA template_Apr ’23
Copy/paste this message into an email to your BC MLA if you prefer email. Please ensure formal titles are recognized when you fill in the BC MLA’s name, Mr. Ms. or Hon.
Ref: The steam tug SS Master and the formal recognition of BC’s Maritime Heritage
Dear Mr. or Ms.
I write to you today, in your capacity as a representative of a BC community with maritime ties, on a matter of some urgency.
The iconic steam tugboat SS Master was a century old last year and although in remarkable repair for her age, is vitally in need of some restoration work. SS Master (as well described in the thorough article published in Towing Lines of the Netherlands (see Ref.1)) is exceptionally important to BC’s maritime history for the following reasons:
- SS Master is the ONLY wooden-hulled, steam-powered tugboat still afloat and in operational condition IN THE WORLD
- SS Master was built in Vancouver in 1922 by renowned shipwright Arthur Moscrop (the builder of the RCMP Roch)
- Except for some hardwood trim, SS Master is built entirely of timbers grown in BC, principally Douglas Fir
- SS Master has been specifically recognized by Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) for the historic significance of tugboats of Canada’s West Coast in the economic development of BC.
- SS Master is a beautiful and iconic example of the steam tug era in BC’s coastal history and deserves to be restored and maintained to educate future generations of BC citizens about the role of tugs in BC’s coastal development.
- For 60 years SS Master has been in the care of a dedicated group of talented (but aging!) volunteers, the SS Master Society, who spend many hours caring for and maintaining her. They now need your support!
The critically important first step in making this happen involves the formal establishment of a Registry of Historic Vessels of British Columbia. Nowhere in Canada are operational heritage vessels recognized. There is support for land-locked vessels such as St. Roch, Moyie and Klondike, and even for sunken wrecks, but not for the more venerable SS Master and others of her ilk that are still afloat, having been cared for by dedicated owners and volunteers. The preservation of BC’s maritime history, in the case of truly important historic vessels, is entirely the responsibility of private individuals who care. This must change.
In most other maritime countries, there are excellent examples of how Heritage Vessel designations are documented and controlled. In particular, the UK has done a wonderful job of creating registries for vessels of all types, including small craft. Their documents on this topic (see References) are the ideal template for the creation of just such a registry for BC or indeed for Canadian vessels.
We ask for your immediate support in advocating within the BC Government for this most important first step in recognizing BC’s maritime heritage: Establish a “Registry of Historic Vessels of British Columbia” within the jurisdiction of Heritage BC. We, supporters of BC’s maritime heritage need a champion within the halls of power. Establishing this provincial registry will hopefully ultimately lead to the creation of a comparable National Registry.
Please support us in this appeal for proper recognition of the boats that have helped to build BC.