Canada Steamship Lines (CSL Niagara)
35 years in the Industry
Born and raised in Les Mechins, Quebec, Michel Lavoie has been immersed in the shipping industry since he was a small child. Several members of his family worked on ships transiting the St. Lawrence in the 1950s and 1960s and at the age of three, he had his first onboard tour from his uncle, a chief engineer with Groupe Desgagnes.
Lavoie remembers: “I grew up on the St. Lawrence. There was always a ship passing by or at the dock waiting to be loaded with pulp wood for the paper industry. I always said I was going to be a Captain but I ended up becoming a chief engineer. I became intrigued by mechanics and how things work.”
For the past five years, Lavoie has worked on the M/V CSL Niagara, owned and operated by Canada Steamship Lines, which carries wheat, iron ore, coal and other bulk materials on the Great Lakes-Seaway and St. Lawrence River.
He is in charge of a team of eight and is responsible for the safe and efficient operation of all the technical systems and equipment on the ship. This includes everything from engines and electrical systems to loading systems and administrative tasks.
He must also ensure that all of the ship’s equipment meets regulatory standards, which can vary from country to country, and state to state. Lavoie says that this patchwork of rules often leads to a mountain of paperwork.
Life on a ship can also be challenging in other ways — he’s away from his wife and two grown daughters for two months at a time. But after 35 years in the business, Lavoie takes it all in his stride. “What I still love the best about this job, is when a problem arises – figuring out a solution and fixing it. All of this requires a good team effort,” he says.