Federal government should modernize costly Canadian pilotage system

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 today’s 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,” he added. “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/St. Lawrence Seaway, where domestic shipmasters 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CMC members strongly believe that Canada’s outdated pilotage governance and operational model has led to out-of-control costs and a service that often does not meet the needs of its users.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 C$376,500 per pilot in 2016—increasing 3.4 times more than CPI over 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.

Maritime Editorial