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Choppy waters for entrepreneur - Metro US

Choppy waters for entrepreneur

Ihab Shaker has operated passenger ferry services on the Red Sea, the Salish Sea, and even Lake Ontario. You could say the global entrepreneur has seen it all. That is, until recently.

A series of business setbacks has undermined not only the day-to-day operations of his company, Coastal Link Ferries, it has also discouraged him on the local business environment.

During the Winter Olympics, his vessel, the Coastal Runner, was seized by court order because of a dispute with the company’s lender over mortgage payments on the boat.

It was a cruel decision in more ways than one. Not only was his ferry service connecting Bowen Island to downtown Vancouver starting to gain momentum, the ferry was fully booked for the duration of the Games.

To say Shaker is disappointed with the turn of events would be an understatement. Royally frustrated seems closer to the truth.

But Shaker told me he has no intentions on giving up anytime soon — and he will happily duke it out in the courts to hold onto what he feels is rightfully his.

“I still own the vessel, the website, phone number, contracts, and everything else the company owned before 100 per cent,” he said. “If you go to Transport Canada’s ship registry, you will find that Coastal Link Ferries owns the Coastal Runner — nothing has changed.”

But you can’t help but sympathize with the master mariner and deep-sea ship’s captain given his current plight.

“I am a man who put my money where my mouth is, worked so hard to build a water-borne transportation alternative, introduced the most fuel-efficient vessel of her size in Canada, and fought an uphill battle to make it work all the way.”

Not surprisingly, his biggest gripe locally is with government and institutional bureaucracy.

“I did not receive any form of support from any level of government, but instead had to deal with unfair, discouraging, and relentless resistance from all governmental stakeholders,” he said. “Just to name a few: B.C. Ferries, TransLink, the City of Vancouver, and many others.”

And, yet, Shaker is adamant that cost-efficient and environmentally sound maritime transport represents the future for coastal regions such as the Lower Mainland.

“I still believe that small, cost-effective, non-subsidized ferries are the way to solve our transportation and bridge problems if they are given a fair chance,” he said.

And how can anyone argue with that?

– Derek Moscato is a writer with a focus on urban issues, transportation, architecture and economics; dmoscato@yahoo.com.

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