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March 21, 2019

Ottawa to modernize costly Canadian marine pilotage system

The Chamber of Marine Commerce (CMC) says it is pleased with the Federal Budget's promise to introduce legislation to modernize Canada's pilotage service for commercial ships - a system that has not been overhauled in 45 years.

In ports and other specific channels, ships are mandated by law to have a pilot come on board to help with navigation. Most of the 3700-kilometre Great Lakes-St. Lawrence waterway is within a mandatory pilotage zone as are other areas along the east and west coasts of Canada.

The rationale is that a Canadian-licensed pilot will navigate the challenging areas where the ships' crew may not have travelled often and know the potential hazards. This is an important safety measure, however, problems exist on how the service works.

"This is an historic step forward to make the significant changes needed to the Pilotage Act and its regulatory framework that will create a pilotage system that not only ensures safe navigation but improves the efficiency and competitiveness of Canada's transportation system for years to come," 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. This government-mandated service has for decades been provided by monopolistic entities with little accountability or input from ship operators and their customers - despite the fact that it is paid for by industry fees - costs passed ultimately to consumers. We look forward to delving into the details of these regulatory changes and working with government and the pilotage authorities in the months to come to improve this valuable service."

CMC is particularly pleased to see the pledge to increase transparency in Canada's pilotage system included as part of this reform, and will continue to work for a comprehensive legislative and regulatory overhaul of the pilotage regime.

Source: CMC