By Alex Binkley

After a protracted preparation phase, a review of the Pilotage Act will take a broad look at the navigation service and whether modern technology should lead to changes. The review will be chaired by Marc Grégoire, a former Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard and former Assistant Deputy Minister of Safety and Security at Transport Canada. His mandate is to focus on tariffs, service delivery, governance, and dispute resolution to ensure safe, efficient and environmentally responsible marine pilotage services into the future.

Grégoire is to begin roundtable consultations with interested parties this fall. A website will be set up to collect comments and submissions. Next spring, Grégoire “will conduct a series of solution-focused consultations with stakeholders to consider options,” Transport Canada said. A report will be presented to Transport Minister Marc Garneau later in the year with recommendations to modernize the Pilotage Act. The minister will decide on the timing of the report’s release.

In outlining the scope of the review, Transport Canada noted the Pilotage Act remains unchanged since its enactment in 1972. The goal of the review is ensure pilotage services are provided in a safe, efficient and environmentally responsible manner as well as being transparent and accountable, Transport said. Currently 99 per cent of pilotage assignments are completed safely.

Mike Broad, President of the Shipping Federation of Canada, said marine navigation is safe and should “not be used as a pretext to avoid ways of increasing efficiency within the pilotage system. We’ll be looking at constructive discussions on the inability of the current system to rein in cost increases; how to address long standing issues related to levels of service in some areas, and how we can further leverage technology to inject even more efficiency into the service. We must also ensure that safety matters are dealt with through the regulatory process as opposed to being a part of commercial negotiations between pilot corporations and the Authorities. “Pilotage is a complex issue, with many polarized views and Mr. Grégoire is an excellent choice as Chair,” he said. “We’re frustrated by a lot of aspects of our relations with the Pilotage Authorities.” Shipowners are forced by international requirements to install electronic navigation equipment but still required to use pilotage in every instance.

Robert Lewis-Manning, President of Shipping Federation of British Columbia, said “the focus on tariffs, service delivery, governance, and dispute resolution is the right focus and we are pleased that the government has responded to concerns of ocean carriers. Marc Grégoire is an excellent choice to lead this review and we look forward to engaging with him, the staff at Transport Canada, and other stakeholders.”

Wendy Zatylny, President of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, said the broadly-based consultation should enable the stakeholders to obtain a balanced outcome. Among the issues needing consideration are capacity and the changing navigation technology. Having a year-long review with plenty of opportunity for consultation should ensure all the elements involved in pilotage received thorough consideration, which should produce a balanced outcome, she said.

The review is to consider the recommendations of the 2016 Canada Transportation Act Review, which noted pilotage hadn’t changed since 1972 despite the advances in technology. “Canada has not fully taken advantage of these advances to improve efficiency and reduce overall costs the way some peer countries (such as Norway and Denmark) have done. The Pilotage Authorities acknowledge that technology, including remote piloting of vessels and automated navigation systems, reduce the requirement to have pilots available at all times and in all circumstances.

“While safety is clearly a priority, stakeholders have raised concerns about the cost and the requirements for pilots to be so frequently on duty,” the report noted. “Improved communications and information technology also undercut the arguments for maintaining four distinct Crown corporations to oversee pilotage in different geographic regions of the country. … Moreover, given the average age of pilots (58) and a skills shortage (based on current pilotage requirements), the governance of pilotage requires a strategic focus — one that aligns mission and purpose and promotes more effective use of technology and innovation. “Canada could reduce compulsory pilotage areas by expanding certification of vessel operators as pilots as well as adapting the advancements in navigation system capabilities such as automation and remote piloting,” the report said. “This would enable experienced pilots to redeploy to service areas experiencing growth in demand for services while minimizing risk.”

Knowing the Review was in the works, the Canadian Marine Pilots Association commissioned a study by Transportation Economics & Management Systems, which claimed that for the $208 million spent annually on Canadian pilotage, Canada receives an economic benefit of $4.56 billion through safe navigation of ships. “Pilots have developed innovative practices for navigation on the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River without lighted buoys or other normal navigation aids in the winter; thereby extending the operating seasons of both the St. Lawrence Seaway and ports on the St. Lawrence River, especially Montreal,” the study said. “Also, night time navigation during the winter on the St. Lawrence has been greatly enhanced in recent years through the innovative application by pilots of e-Navigation and Portable Pilot Units (PPUs). The positive impact of an extended navigation season in the Great Lakes Region was substantiated by a case study that demonstrated how it enhances the marine mode’s competitive advantage as the most cost effective means for moving grain and other commodities.”