CMPA identifies key flaws in Pilotage Act Review Report


Leo Ryan, Editor


The Canadian Marine Pilots Association has qualified as "dangerous" three recommendations in particular made in the final Marc Grégoire report on the Pilotage Act Review initiated a year ago under the Oceans Protection Plan. The CMPA response came in a letter addressed on June 7 to federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau on the May 22 report containing 38 recommendations following 58 bilateral meetings held across Canada with a wide spectrum of industry stakeholders.

In the letter to Mr. Garneau, CMPA President Simon Pelletier said the national association supports many recommendations that can make valuable contributions to Canada's pilotage regime.

"This includes recommendations to foster greater transparency between pilot corporations and pilotage authorities; to better define the purpose and objectives of the Act; to have more robust enforcement and compliance provisions; to provide First Nations with a meaningful role in the governance of the system; to expedite tariff-setting; and to implement measures aimed at better protecting the Arctic."

But Mr. Pelletier continued: "That said, the Report makes three recommendations that we believe will not only not improve the pilotage system, but are actually dangerous because of the negative impact they will have on the performance of the system, especially in regard to safe navigation."

"Generally speaking," he told Maritime Magazine, "the report is incomplete on governance, technology advances and economic considerations."

The first recommendation singled out concerned abolishing the single service provider model for pilotage services.

In a regime where more than one group of pilots in a given district can provide service, the CMPA letter warns: "Pilotage service users would be able to play off one group of pilots against another to serve commercial interests, thereby accommodating business interests and cost-cutting preoccupations over safety and the public interest."

After pointing out that the few jurisdictions (e.g., Florida) that have experimented with such an approach have found it to be detrimental to safety and the public interests, the CMPA letter described the report as "incomplete in its analysis of this question. In fact, it is misleading that it fails to appreciate that it is not the 'monopoly' of a pilotage authority that protects against competitive commercial pressure but, instead, it is the circumstances of the actual delivery that are crucial."

Pilotage certificates issue

Regarding issuing pilotage certificates to non-Canadians, the CMPA points out that

the issuance of pilotage certificates to Canadian masters and officers that have demonstrated knowledge of local waters eliminates the requirement to board licensed pilots in compulsory pilotage areas.

"Recommendation 22 of the Report proposes extending eligibility for pilotage certificates to foreign masters and officers. The recommendation is driven by a very specific issue on the west coast involving US tugs and barges transiting to and from Alaska to the State of Washington. The fact that pilotage requirements for these vessels are currently waived is a serious issue, but the proposed solution is certainly heavy-handed, in that it establishes a new practice nation-wide; a practice that in certain cases would impact safety.

"Moreover, creating a regime whereby any commercial vessel, including tankers, could transit compulsory pilotage areas without a Canadian onboard raises security issues, especially in respect of waters shared with the US (e.g., the St. Lawrence Seaway). In any event, the recommendation is un-necessary, because the Pacific Pilotage Authority is currently developing an initiative to address the specific issue that gave rise to a concern in the first place, without impacting operations everywhere else in the country."

Merging LPA and GLPA

Another recommendation calls for merging the Laurentian Pilotage Authority (LPA) and the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority Pilotage (GLPA).

Comments the CMPA: "It is self-evident that the climatic conditions, navigational challenges, type of marine traffic, and available infrastructure vary greatly from region to region. It follows that, for a pilotage system to be effective, its framework must fully take into account regional differences and the need for local knowledge. This is best ensured through local decision-making, under effective ministerial oversight."

The CMPA also noted that to the extent this recommended merger is seen as the precursor to a total amalgamation of the regional pilotage authorities, it undermines the local character of pilotage, which goes against the stated preference of "the majority of stakeholders" (per indicated in Grégoire Report).

The CMPA urged the minister not to proceed eventually with the implementation of the three proposals while also expressing regret over the omission of key findings from independent experts on pilotage costs.

Mr. Pelletier pointed to a Transport Canada-commissioned study by the AIM Group which determined that in 2016 "the magnitude of pilotage costs amounted to approximately one-tenth of one percent of the value of Canada's maritime trade."

Thus, "in the context of the national economy as a whole, pilotage costs do not negatively affect Canada's trade competitiveness for importers and exporters based on the cost of pilotage compared to the value of the marine trade."