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Shipping industry applauds sweeping changes to Canadian marine pilotage system


Ottawa, ON — New legislation introduced this week to modernize Canada’s pilotage service for commercial ships will ensure safe navigation and improve the efficiency and competitiveness of Canada’s transportation system, according to the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

“After 45 years, we are finally seeing changes that will bring transparency and impartial decision-making to a costly government-mandated service that has for decades been provided with little accountability, or input from ship operators and their customers — despite the fact that it is paid for by industry fees — costs passed ultimately to consumers,” said Bruce Burrows, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

In ports and other specific channels, ships are mandated by law to have a pilot from a pilotage authority come on board to help with navigation in difficult areas.  Most of the 3700-kilometre Great Lakes-St. Lawrence waterway is within a mandatory pilotage zone as are other areas along the east and west coasts of Canada.

The detailed changes to the Pilotage Act were revealed in the Budget Implementation Act (BIA) and include: transferring regulatory responsibilities from pilotage authorities to the Minister of Transport Canada; establishing a regulatory authority for risk assessments; creating an open and clearly laid out fee-setting process, based on fair and reasonable fees; and making service contracts with pilot corporations public.

One of the most important changes is the ability for Transport Canada to now create an improved and standardized pilotage certification program. This program will allow domestic Canadian crews that have similar knowledge and experience as government-mandated pilots to navigate their own ships in compulsory pilotage zones.

“We can now start working toward a national pilotage certification program that promotes onboard training and certification of a company’s masters and officers to pilot their own vessels, similar to the program in place on the Great Lakes.  This would be a huge improvement to the disjointed, out-of-date systems that currently exist in other pilotage areas,” says Burrows. “It’s important that Transport Canada work with industry in the development of these new regulations to ensure they meet shipowners’ operational needs.”

The Chamber will also continue to push for reforms to provide a more flexible labour model for pilotage authorities that gives them the ability to hire their own pilots or contract with for-profit pilotage corporations.