The Canadian Pilot

Message from the President

It seems the government, along with the entire pilotage stakeholder community, is always involved in the discussion and disposition of an issue affecting the pilotage regime.

Most recently, the challenge was to review the Pilotage Act in order to ensure that it supported the government’s Oceans Protection Plan. This work has now been completed and the results reflected in the amendments to the Act which were passed by Parliament in June. The nature of these amendments and the process by which they were arrived at are described elsewhere in this issue of the Canadian Pilot.

Having completed this review and having made amendments to the Pilotage Act which are truly historic, we must now respond to the challenge of breathing life into the decisions that have been made and the changes that Parliament has approved.

Over the next many months and years, led by Transport Canada, marine pilots will share this assignment with other stakeholders.

Most important, will be the large and complicated task of transferring the regulatory function of the pilotage authorities to Transport Canada, while maintaining the authorities’ focus on operational activities.

The first dimension of this transfer revolves around the pilotage regulations themselves. Currently, regulations are set by both Transport Canada and the pilotage authorities; henceforth, all the regulations will be the responsibility of Transport Canada. To make this happen, regulations that have been developed and promulgated over decades by the four pilotage authorities covering such varied aspects as the licensing of pilots, the delineation of compulsory pilotage areas, and the type of vessels that require pilotage service, must be revised for purposes of internal consistency and adherence to the amended Act, and then re-issued.

Just as important, although perhaps not attracting the same attention as the transfer of regulation-making to Transport Canada, are the new provisions regarding compliance and enforcement. This is especially welcome because, no matter how laudable the provisions of the Act are in themselves, unless they are adhered to, they have little value.

The new regime truly modernizes compliance and enforcement by giving appropriate powers to the Minister regarding inspection, monitoring and the imposition of sanctions, including administrative monetary penalties. The Act also establishes a new mechanism for appeals through the Transportation Appeals Tribunal of Canada. For all of this to operate effectively, systems, practices and procedures must be in place. This involves not only the creation of new protocols, the tasking of new responsibilities to appropriate officials, but also ensuring the awareness of all those involved – pilots included – of the changes to the operating, regulatory and legal environments governing the system.

As always, pilots welcome the opportunity to contribute to a process intended to improve the safety, effectiveness and efficiency of the pilotage regime. Our commitment is to work constructively and collaboratively with the government and all stakeholders.

Simon Pelletier

Amendments to the Pilotage Act

On November 7, 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau announced the Government of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan (OPP), a $1.5 billion initiative intended to ensure Canada has a world-leading marine safety system that meets the country’s needs from coast-to-coast-to-coast. As part of the Plan, the government undertook to review the Pilotage Act, with the intent of modernizing it to secure “safe, efficient and environmentally responsible pilotage services into the future.”

The Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, followed-up on this commitment on May 31, 2017, by appointing Marc Grégoire to chair the Pilotage Act Review. What followed was nearly a year of independent studies on various topics, submissions by stakeholders, roundtable discussions, and the issuance of draft position papers. In April 2018, Mr. Grégoire presented his final report to the Minister. The report’s findings were considered by government, which ultimately – through the 2019 Budget Implementation Act – proposed amendments to the Pilotage Act. These amendments were passed by Parliament and given royal assent on 21 June 2019.

Over the course of the Review, industry stakeholders raised a number of issues regarding matters that had less to do with “safe, efficient and environmentally responsible pilotage services” and more to do with longstanding objections to the bedrock on which Canada’s pilotage regime rests – the delivery of service by a single-source in a non-competitive environment, ensuring both the highest professional standards and the exercise of independent judgment to serve the public interest.

Some stakeholders called for the introduction of competing pilotage services (including a suggestion that existing pilotage corporations should be eliminated), the abolition of regional pilotage authorities, greater industry involvement in both pilotage governance and regulation-setting, and even giving priority to the needs of users over public interest considerations.

Some of the 38 recommendations contained in Mr. Grégoire’s report reflected these preoccupations. Fortunately, after considerable deliberation and further consultation, the government stayed focused on its original intent to consider changes to the legislation that would enhance safety. Accordingly, building on some of the recommendations contained in the report, and including other provisions reflecting the government’s own public policy priorities, the amendments can be broadly grouped into three categories.

1. Modernization

The Act now includes a specific reference to the importance of environmental considerations, as well as the more general reference to the public interest. While cost-effectiveness is mentioned as a goal, safety considerations are clearly identified as being of first importance. The pilotage tariff-setting process is streamlined by eliminating the requirement to effect tariff through regulation.

To avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, changes to governance practices will bar industry and pilot representatives from appointment to pilotage authority boards of directors. Transparency will be enhanced by making public the service agreements between pilotage authorities and pilot corporations.

A review of the pilotage risk assessment methodology is intended to make it more specific and efficient to the pilotage function.

2. Compliance and Enforcement

Detailed provisions have been added for greater compliance to the Act through inspections and the maintenance and production of records.

As enforcement measures, an Administrative Monetary Penalties regime has been introduced and disciplinary power has been given to the Minister.

The Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada is assigned a mandate to review, on appeal, monetary penalties and disciplinary action.

3. Regulation-setting

Responsibility for the drafting and introduction of all regulations will now rest with Transport Canada. Previously, Transport issued national regulations, while each pilotage authority was responsible for its own set of regional regulations. The new system is intended to increase the harmonization of regulations between regions, but still acknowledges regional differences. Moreover, it places the regulatory function at arms-length from the actual operators of the pilotage system. It will be paramount for marine pilots to work closely with government officials to ensure the specific and sometimes unique regional differences and considerations are properly reflected in the regulations to be issued by Transport Canada.


From the outset, the overarching objective of marine pilots was to ensure that the fundamental elements of Canada’s pilotage regime were maintained. The pilotage system has been remarkably effective for nearly 50 years, with a safety record of nearly one-hundred percent. Despite opposing views presented by powerful industry representatives, marine pilots achieved their goal. Pilots from across the country participated in dozens of meetings during the Review itself, as Cabinet decided on the legislation it would propose, and as Parliament considered the amendments to the Act. This represented a significant undertaking and effort by the CMPA and local pilot groups, but the result made it well worth the effort.

The new legislation respects the well-proven elements of an effective pilotage system, while making useful changes that reflect new governance and management practices. The CMPA is committed to helping ensure its successful implementation.


For the first time in over 20 years, and for only the second time since its enactment by Parliament in 1972, substantive amendments have been made to the Pilotage Act.

These amendments fulfill a commitment made by government in the context of the Oceans Protection Plan to review the Act so as to ensure pilotage continues to play an effective role in maintaining safe navigation.

Despite challenges from some industry stakeholders, the basic principles that define pilotage in Canada were re-affirmed: paramountcy of safety; ability of pilots to exercise independent judgement free of undue commercial pressures; and, importance of local knowledge and regional differences.

Changes reinforced the importance of serving the public interest, while introducing new measures to enhance accountability and compliance, and separating regulatory and operational activities.

Overall, these changes modernize the Pilotage Act by bringing it into line with current standards for governance, transparency and representativeness. They also seek to improve the regulation-setting process and strengthen enforcement measures.

The Canadian Marine Pilots’ Association supports the changes passed by Parliament on 21 June 2019, and looks forward to working constructively with government and other stakeholders on their implementation.

Deep Sea Marine Autonomous Surface Ships:
Will We See Them?

By Captain Simon Pelletier, President, International Maritime Pilots’ Association

Predicting the future is not easy. The great Danish physicist Niels Bohr, 1922 Nobel prize winner, recognized this in his famous quip: “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” Time and again, developments take place that no one saw coming, while predictions that seem near-certainties fail to materialize.

Perhaps the most compelling research on expert predictions was conducted by political scientist Philip Tetlock. Struck by how authoritative predictions often contradict one another, Tetlock solicited 28,000 predictions about the future, over 20 years, from 284 experts with more than 12 years of experience on average in their respective fields. Tetlock observed that, by and large, experts are terrible forecasters, only marginally more accurate than chance, and that areas of specialty, years of experience, and even access to classified information made no difference.

Over the last years, I have been very involved in the question of Marine Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS), participating in multiple meetings of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other international forums. In light of Tetlock’s research, I will resist the temptation to make a prediction about MASS, but it is fascinating to see how many other persons in the marine sector do.

MASS proponents, essentially technology vendors, believe such ships would result in potential cost savings (from not having to pay for crew members) and a reduction of human errors. On the other hand, many in the ship operating community think that the suggestion there will be a fleet of deep-sea MASS anytime soon is unrealistic and underestimates the complexity of ships’ operations, particularly in restricted waters. For example, the CEO of the Wallem Group, a global ship management company, Frank Coles, recently declared: “attempting to supplant people with machines is misguided; it’s time to drop simplistic suggestions that a diligent watch officer can be replaced with a CCTV” (Wallem boss warns of “misguided” attempts to replace seafarers with machines, Seatrade Maritime News, 02 July, 2019).

Whatever the case may be, much work is underway at IMO. IMO’s Marine Safety Committee (MSC) has initiated a regulatory scoping exercise and has identified four degrees of autonomy:

Interestingly, MSC thinks that “truly autonomous ships operating without human monitoring and control, either onboard or from a shore station, is not a realistic goal at this time (as) it would require a level of Artificial General Intelligence that does not yet exist”.

IMO hoped to have completed the exercise by 2020 but, realistically, it will take longer as the work covers all IMO instruments dealing with maritime safety and security including collision regulations, loading and stability, search and rescue, and others. For each instrument, provisions will be identified which:

Once this first step is completed, a second step will be conducted to determine the most appropriate way of addressing MASS, taking into account the human element, technology and operational factors. The analysis will identify the need for:

Beyond the analysis of IMO’s legal instruments, however, it remains to be seen what risk analysis of potential MASS operations will take place. In this respect, an important challenge will be to develop an approach that truly takes into account a full evaluation of risk, and how operational risks such as collisions intersect with security issues such as terrorism, organized crime, piracy, and cyber/radio frequency/satellite attacks.

Such risk analysis is essential as autonomous vessels operated by computers or remote operators could come with risks that are entirely new. For example, in the case of remote controlled vessels, such as those in IMO’s degree 3, the risk of human error is not eliminated but simply transferred to a remote operator. How will system failures in such situations be effectively mitigated? Similarly, might a “safer” technology, as MASS proponents describe it (albeit without evidence), have the unintended consequence of encouraging new, riskier behaviours? For example, might other users of shipping lanes (such as recreational boaters) end up taking more risks in the vicinity of MASS, if these ships’ collision-avoidance systems are described as making them “safer”? How would such riskier behaviours then be mitigated?

Unless a truly multi-dimensional approach to risk analysis and management is developed specifically for MASS, ensuring full consideration of all potentially relevant security threats and accident risk factors, deep-sea marine autonomous surface ships will constitute a hazard. The one prediction I will make is that it will take some time before we see deep-sea MASS in restricted waters!

Pilots: Contributing to Protect Southern Resident Killer Whales

The central mission of Canadian marine pilots is to effect the safe transit of vessels through hazardous waters. Incident-free pilotage spells good news not only for the shipping industry, but for the environment, avoiding spills of deadly chemicals and other cargo that can cause catastrophic harm to marine life and habitats. This latter consideration means that pilots play an important role in the now-urgent efforts to maintain living oceans and vibrant coastlines.

On the West Coast, the plight of a remarkable and beautiful sea mammal, the Southern Resident Killer Whale, has added another dimension to pilots’ role as stewards of an increasingly fragile marine environment and ecosystem.

With less than 80 surviving in the waters off southern British Columbia, the whales have been declared an endangered species, and efforts are underway to rescue them from extinction. Because they use sound to communicate, navigate and hunt, noise from marine vessels may disrupt the very activities necessary for whales to survive and flourish. Vessel noise can make it difficult to hear and “echo-locate” objects (i.e., using sound to identify where they are), thereby compromising the whales’ ability to hunt salmon, their primary food source.

Through the ECHO (Enhanced Cetacean Habitat and Observation) Program, a Port of Vancouver-led initiative supported by the Government of Canada, trials were undertaken in 2017 to measure the impact of slower vessel speeds on disruptive noise. The findings showed that there was a very significant correlation, with even minor slowdowns potentially resulting in major reductions in noise. As a result, the initiative was implemented on an ongoing basis, wherein vessels reduce their speed over a 28-mile area in the Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a main feeding area for the whales.

In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a similar vessel slow-down initiative is in place. That slowdown is mandatory because it is entirely in Canadian waters, thereby giving the Government of Canada the authority to impose such restrictions. On the West Coast, the route used by vessels to access the South Coast ports such as the Port of Vancouver transits both U.S. and Canadian waters, limiting the Canadian government’s ability to unilaterally set mandatory speed limits. As a result, the ECHO program on the West Coast is currently voluntary but thanks to collaboration between pilots, industry and government, has an 85% vessel participation rate.

Pilots have been involved in the ECHO Program from the outset, being particularly active in the slow-down trial and subsequent steps taken to introduce speed reductions on an ongoing basis. Because the reduction in speed results in a longer transit time, the initiative has a direct impact on pilot assignments. For safety reasons, if a pilotage assignment is anticipated to extend beyond eight hours, a second pilot must be on the vessel in order to relieve the first pilot. The lower speeds can also affect considerations related to the navigation of a vessel, taking account of traffic, weather conditions, currents and other factors. Throughout the process, pilots have been positive collaborators, focused on finding solutions to any impediments that might arise and ensuring the problem-free execution of vessel slow-downs.

The ultimate goal, which is to restore the whales to viability, aligns perfectly with pilots’ role as responsible stewards of the marine environment. It is another way for pilots to contribute to the federal government’s Oceans Protection Plan, a long-term strategy to maintain and protect Canada’s oceans.

A Look Back...


Capt. Robin Stewart, President of the British Columbia Coast Pilots and CMPA Vice-president for the Pacific Region, joined the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard last May at an announcement by Minister Wilkinson about measures to protect Southern Resident Killer Whales.


Transport Canada Assistant Deputy Minister, Michael Keenan, took the time to participate in a pilotage assignment last March in the Pacific Region. Here, he is joined by BC Coast Pilot, Capt. Carl Soderberg, and Transport Canada Assistant Deputy Minister, Pacific, Robert Dick.


Capt. Ross Calder, Chairman of the Halifax Pilots, met with the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport in Halifax last fall. Also present were Capt. Andrew Rae, CMPA Vice-president for the Atlantic Region, and Member of Parliament for Sackville – Preston – Chezzetcook, Darrell Samson.


CMPA President, Capt. Simon Pelletier, who has also been President of the International Maritime Pilots’ Association since 2014 attended a function at the House of Lords in London last June.


The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities participated in a pilotage assignment last July in the Lower St. Lawrence Pilotage District with the President of the Corporation of Lower St. Lawrence Pilots, Capt. Yves Plourde. Minister Champagne also visited the Corporation’s Marine Simulation and Expertise Centre where he had an hands-on opportunity to see how some of the ongoing proficiency training of marine pilots is conducted.

From Your Vantage Point

This issue’s Vantage Point is courtesy of Capt. Dominique Simard, from the Corporation des pilotes du Fleuve et de la Voie maritime du Saint-Laurent, the pilotage district from Saint-Lambert to Cornwall, and was taken during one of his assignments at dawn last June.

The photograph above on the left is courtesy of Capt. Simon Pelletier, from the Lower St. Lawrence pilotage district while the picture in the middle is courtesy of Capt. Mike Armstrong, from the Fraser River pilotage district, and the picture on the right is courtesy of Capt. Marty Mangan from the Upper St. Lawrence District.

The cover photograph is courtesy of Capt. Louis Rhéaume, and was taken on the Saguenay River.

Marine pilots operate around the clock, coast to coast, at times in fair weather and in spectacular surroundings and, at other times, in conditions that are extremely challenging. We welcome all photographs that convey the experience of pilots and highlight the nature of their work.