The Chamber of Marine Commerce (CMC) welcomes the submission of the Canadian Pilotage Review’s recommendations and will review these in detail to ensure that it contains the significant changes that are needed to improve a service that has not been overhauled in over 45 years.

“We will be carefully reviewing the recommendations in the report. Canada’s pilotage regime is stuck in the 1970s and significant changes are needed to the Pilotage Act and its regulatory framework to support a modern transportation network that is both safe and efficient,” said Bruce Burrows, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

“Pilotage costs in Canada are out of control and have a long history of increasing at rates that far exceed inflation. The government’s Pilotage Review process is an important first step towards creating a pilotage system that not only promotes safety as its first priority but also meets users’ needs, uses sound risk management practices and is accountable and transparent. We look forward to participating in stakeholder discussions going forward.”

Marine pilotage is a government-mandated service where a marine pilot must be given the conduct of a vessel to navigate through designated ports, straits, lakes, rivers and other waterways. It is managed by four separate federal Crown corporations despite there being only about 400 pilots across Canada. Each Crown corporation has its own set of regulations, operational procedures and management practices, which is inefficient, overly complex and unnecessary.  In some cases, Crown Corporations are only permitted to use the services of pilots in monopoly, for-profit, pilotage corporations. And in many of the pilotage zones, archaic and cumbersome rules make it almost impossible for domestic ship masters and mates to be certified to pilot their own vessels – despite having similar local knowledge and expertise and having access to state-of-the-art navigation and traffic control management systems.

On the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, where domestic ship masters and mates have been certified to pilot their own vessels, they have a safety record that exceeds that of their government-mandated counterparts.

CMC members strongly believe that Canada’s outdated pilotage governance and operational model has led to out-of-control costs and a service that often does not meet the needs of its users.

Fees, salaries and benefits paid to licensed pilots averaged $376,500 per pilot in 2016 – well in excess of inflation during the last five years.  On the St. Lawrence River, for example, the hourly cost of pilotage exceeds the TOTAL cost of the entire crew of a vessel. 

“Out of control costs of this kind are added to the marine transportation bill for Canadian industries and drive business away to other less environmentally-friendly transportation modes or worse, to other geographic regions – meaning the potential loss of revenues and jobs for Canadians,” says Burrows.

During the Pilotage Review consultations over the past few months, CMC made the following key proposals, among others:

• That regulatory authority of pilotage be transferred to Transport Canada.  CMC believes it is crucial that regulatory authority be separate from service delivery, to address potential for conflicts of interest and this should be accomplished within five years to ensure Canada has a nationally consistent and harmonized pilotage regulatory framework. CMC also supports a neutral National Advisory Committee with representation from all key stakeholders.

• That the Pilotage Authorities be amalgamated into one national authority. CMC supports having one national pilotage authority with regional operation centres – which would ultimately lead to a more cost-efficient structure that would be an enabler for improvements into the future.

• That pilotage authorities should be able to choose their own work model. CMC supports that authorities be able to hire their own pilots, contract with individual pilots and/or use the service of pilotage corporations.

• That pilotage corporations (which provide the pilots for service) have greater transparency and accountability. CMC supports that pilot corporations must be required to make public their financial statements, service contracts and be subject to audits.

• That Transport Canada review and standardize the pilot certification process and allow ‘certified’ masters and mates to operate fleet-wide. Qualified masters and mates on Canadian domestic ships who hold pilotage certificates pilot their own vessels while in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway regions. Research shows they have an exceptional safety record that is better than their government-mandated pilot counterparts. CMC supports the current Great Lakes Pilotage Authority certification program to be used as a model for a national system with the proviso that certified masters and mates be able to work on any vessel in their company’s fleet. We also believe that pilotage certification should be overseen by Transport Canada to eliminate any potential conflict of interest.

• That the Pilotage Act have a statement of purpose and clear objectives.  CMC believes that this purpose should be line with other legislation applying to marine transportation; to promote a safe, efficient and competitive marine transportation system, meet users’ needs in a cost-effective manner, take advantage of modern technology and sound risk management practices, and is accountable and transparent.