Marine Pilotage in Canada: En Route to Modernizing the Pilotage Act

(Disponible en français : Le pilotage maritime au Canada : en route vers la modernisation de la Loi sur le pilotage)

In May 2017, Transport Canada launched its Pilotage Act Review, which resulted in the publication of a final report on 22 May 2018. The report contained 38 recommendations to the Government of Canada, including reviewing the purpose of the Act, improving the governance model for pilotage in Canada, making the system more nationally consistent and simplifying the tariff-setting process. The Government of Canada amended the Act through Bill C-97, Budget Implementation Act, 2019, No. 1, which was assented to on 21 June 2019.

Figure 1 – Pilotage Authorities in Canada

 

Map showing the four pilotage authorities in Canada : Pacific, Great Lakes, Laurentian and Atlantic.

Canadian Pilotage System

Marine pilotage is a service by which marine pilots take control of a vessel and navigate it through ports, straits, lakes, rivers and other waterways. According to a 1968 report from the Royal Commission on Pilotage, pilotage in Canada dates back to early colonial days and has operated on an organized basis on the St. Lawrence River for over 200 years.

When the Pilotage Act was enacted in 1972, it paved the way for the creation of four Pilotage Authorities across the country to operate and maintain safe and efficient pilotage services in designated areas. Each authority has the exclusive right to provide pilotage services within its geographic area of operation.

Figure 2 – Compulsory Pilotage Areas Under the Authority of the Pacific Pilotage Authority

This map illustrates the compulsory pilotage areas under the Pacific Pilotage Authority as defined by the Pilotage Act. The compulsory pilotage areas are in the Canadian waters in and around the province of British Columbia. Under the Pacific Pilotage Authority there are five designated compulsory pilotage areas. They are identified on the map by a zone with dark blue outline and a blue fill.

Figure 3 – Compulsory Pilotage Areas Under the Authority of the Great Lakes and Laurentian Pilotage Authorities

This map illustrates the compulsory pilotage areas under the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority and Laurentian Pilotage Authority as defined by the Pilotage Act. Under the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority the map depicts five areas that are established as compulsory pilotage areas, from east to west: - Cornwall District, being the waters of the St. Lawrence River between the Port of Montréal and the pilot boarding station near Cornwall. - International District 1, being the waters of the St. Lawrence River from the boarding station near Cornwall to Kingston. - Lake Ontario District. - International District 2, being the waters of the Welland Canal, Lake Erie and the waters of the connecting channels between Lake Erie and Lake Huron. - International District 3, being the waters of Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior including the connecting waters. Under the Laurentian Pilotage Authority the map depicts three areas that are established as compulsory pilotage areas, from south to north: - District 1.1, being the waters of the St. Lawrence River in the Port of Montréal. - District 1, being the waters of the St. Lawrence River between the Port of Montréal and Québec. - District 2, being the waters of the St. Lawrence River between Québec and Les Escoumins as well as the navigable waters of the Saguenay River.

Figure 4 – Compulsory Pilotage Areas Under the Authority of the Atlantic Pilotage Authority

This map illustrates the compulsory pilotage areas under the Atlantic Pilotage Authority as defined by the Pilotage Act. The compulsory pilotage areas are in the Canadian waters in and around the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Under the Atlantic Pilotage Authority there are 17 designated compulsory pilotage areas. They are identified on the map by a dark blue circle.

Maps prepared by Library of Parliament, Ottawa, 2020, using data from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), “Administrative Features,” Administrative Boundaries in Canada – CanVec Series, 2019; NRCan, “Hydrographic Features,” Lakes, Rivers and Glaciers in Canada – CanVec Series, 2019; Natural Earth, 1:10m Cultural Vectors, version 4.1.0; National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, World Port Index, accessed 25 June 2020; Great Lakes Pilotage Authority, Great Lakes Pilotage Region Districts Map; Laurentian Pilotage Authority, Geographical Limits of Activities; Atlantic Pilotage Authority, Compulsory Areas; and data provided by the Pacific Pilotage Authority for compulsory pilotage areas. The following software was used: Esri, ArcGIS Pro, version 2.5.0. Contains information licensed under Open Government Licence – Canada.

Pursuant to the Pilotage Act, for a vessel to navigate within compulsory pilotage areas, often along the coast or near ports, it must “be under the conduct of a licensed pilot or a pilotage certificate holder.” The pilot must go out to the vessel, often using a pilot boat if it is at sea, board the vessel and guide it until it is out of the compulsory pilotage area. The types of vessels subject to compulsory pilotage may vary from one Pilotage Authority to another, and include cargo ships, pleasure craft of a certain size, and oil drilling platforms.

Currently, the four Authorities use regulations to establish their compulsory pilotage areas and prescribe the classes of vessel subject to compulsory pilotage, as well as the circumstances under which compulsory pilotage may be waived for a vessel.

Authorities may hire salaried pilots or use pilots under contract. However, where the majority of pilots in a given region or area decide to form a corporation, the Authority may hire the services of those pilots through a contract for service. When this occurs, the Pilotage Authority in that region or area may not employ pilots.

In the event of a disagreement between the Pilotage Authorities and the pilots’ corporations regarding the terms of contracts for services, a mediator is appointed to resolve the dispute. If outstanding issues remain, an arbitrator will ask each party to present a final offer, and will choose one or the other final offer in its entirety. As pilotage services are compulsory under the Act, they must be maintained during the mediation and arbitration process.

Table 1 – The Number of Pilots, Pilotage Assignments and Average Number of Assignments per Pilot for the Four Pilotage Authorities in Canada in 2019

Pilotage Authorities

Pilots Pilotage Assignments

Average Number of Assignments per Pilot

 

Employees

Contractors

   
Atlantic 50 11 8,694 142
Laurentian 0 180 24,670 137
Great Lakes 59 0 10,093 170
Pacific 9 123 13,282 100
Total for all Authorities 118 314 56,739 131

 

432

   


Note: The exact number of pilots for the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority is 59.1 full-time equivalents.

Source: Data on pilot employees and contractors taken from: Atlantic Pilotage Authority, Annual Report 2019; Laurentian Pilotage Authority, Annual Report 2019; Great Lakes Pilotage Authority, 2019 Annual Report; Pacific Pilotage Authority, 2019 Annual Report. The data on the number of assignments, total number of pilots per Authority and average number of assignments per pilot are taken from Transport Canada, Transportation in Canada 2019: Statistical Addendum, 2019.

The Pilotage Authorities are financially self-sustaining and do not receive parliamentary appropriations. Their largest expenses are pilot salaries and the costs associated with pilot boats. The Authorities’ revenues come mainly from the amounts paid by the vessels (shipowners) that use the waterways within each Authority’s area. The Authorities set their own tariffs (pilotage charges), which may be challenged before the Canadian Transportation Agency by any person under certain conditions.

Figure 5 – Expenses and Revenues for Pilotage Authorities in Canada (2010 to 2019)

Atlantic Graph: The graph shows that the Atlantic Pilotage Authority's revenues exceeded expenditures for most of the 2010 decade, with the exception of 2012, 2014 and 2015. Laurentian Graph: The graph shows that the Laurentian Pilotage Authority's revenues surpassed expenditures for the entire 2010 decade, with the exception of 2018. Great Lakes Graph: The graph shows that the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority's revenues exceeded expenditures for most of the 2010 decade, with the exception of 2015, 2016 and 2019. Pacific Graphic: The graph shows that the Pacific Pilotage Authority's revenues exceeded expenditures for part of the 2010 decade, except between 2013 and 2017.

Source: Figure prepared by the author using data obtained from Transport Canada, Transportation in Canada 2019: Statistical Addendum, 2019.

The General Pilotage Regulations outline certain health and navigational qualifications for applicants for licences or pilotage certificates in Canada. Currently, individual Pilotage Authorities can impose additional criteria for the issuance of a licence or certificate; the costs of issuing them can vary between Authorities.

Modernizing the Pilotage Act

According to Transport Canada, the Pilotage Act Review aimed to modernize the Act while maintaining “Canada’s excellent pilotage safety record.” Bill C-97, Budget Implementation Act, 2019, No. 1, made several changes to the Act, including adding the requirement for the Minister of Transport to undertake a review of the Act every 10 years. The sections below provide an overview of some of the changes to the Act. It should be noted that some have not yet come into force.

A. Governance

In order to enhance “policy clarity, predictability and national consistency,” the Review report recommended adding a general statement or preamble to the Act. The amendments brought by Bill C‑97 add a statement of principles for the delivery of pilotage services, including the requirements to be efficient and cost-effective, to take into consideration evolving technologies, and to make effective use of risk management tools.

With respect to appointments to Pilotage Authority boards of directors, the Act now prohibits users of pilotage services and those who provide pilotage services from being on the board of a Pilotage Authority.

Some of the Review report recommendations related to governance were not implemented, including amalgamating the Laurentian and Great Lakes Pilotage Authorities.

B. Labour

The Review report highlighted problems with the arbitration process for disagreements between pilotage authorities and pilot corporations over the terms of service contracts, as this process did not take into account the long-term viability of Pilotage Authorities (for example, when an offer selected by an arbitrator is not financially viable for the Authority). The report therefore recommended that the arbitrator be required to consider the purpose and principles of the legislation, which is now the case as a result of the amendments made by Bill C-97. It should be noted that the contents of contracts for service will now be publicly available.

While the review Report also recommended that employee pilots be allowed to work in the same pilotage areas as those under contract through pilot corporations, the Act remains unchanged in this regard.

C. Safety Framework

According to the report on the Pilotage Act Review, 99.9% of marine pilotage assignments in Canada are incident free. Under the current framework, each Authority establishes regulations specifying compulsory pilotage areas, the type and size of vessels subject to pilotage, and the conditions under which compulsory pilotage may be waived. As recommended by the Review report, Bill C-97 will transfer responsibility for making regulations for the provision of pilotage services from the Authorities to the Minister of Transport. The Minister of Transport will also become responsible for issuing licences and pilotage certificates.

Also, as recommended in the report, the bill increases the Minister of Transport’s enforcement powers, provides for higher monetary penalties for violations of the Act, and will give the Minister responsibility for risk assessments.

D. Tariffs

The Review report noted that the regulatory process for amending tariff rates was lengthy and cumbersome, and recommended that Pilotage Authorities be given “complete authority” to set tariffs, while continuing to consult stakeholders. According to Transport Canada, the entire tariff-setting process, including consultations and Governor in Council approval, takes an average of six to eight months. Bill C-97 replaced the term “tariffs of pilotage charges” with the term “pilotage charges” and provides that Pilotage Authorities establish charges by resolution rather than regulation. The Authority must publish on its website a notice of any proposal to establish or revise a pilotage charge.

However, contrary to what was recommended in the Review report, any person (not just stakeholders) may comment on the proposal and file a notice of objection with the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Additional Resources

Legal and Social Affairs Division, Legislative Summary of Bill C-97: An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures, Publication No. 42-1-C97-E, Ottawa, Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Library of Parliament, 25 June 2019.

Pilotage Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-14, Amendments not in force.

Transport Canada, Pilotage Act Review discussion, October 2017.

Transport Canada, Pilotage Act Review: Research Summaries, February 2018.

Transport Canada, Pilotage Act Review: Submissions, March 2018.

Author: Geneviève Gosselin, Library of Parliament