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St. Lawrence carriers assail extra pilotage costs

By Leo Ryan, Editor

Domestic shipping lines trading on the St. Lawrence River  are up in arms over additional administrative costs for pilotage services they have to assume as of today that further aggravate their challenges of achieving profit margins in a world economy shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic. The added charges stem from the application of an over-hauled Pilotage Act which has notably transferred regulatory responsibilities from four regional pilotage authorities to the federal Minister of Transport.

“The Act has been modernized but why should our carriers be penalized by paying what has turned out to be extra costs, especially in such a crisis period,” Louise Bédard, Executive Director of the St. Lawrence Shipoperators, told Maritime Magazine. “In the weeks and months ahead, our carriers will be continuing to face very difficult times.”

In this connection, Ms. Bédard of the St. Lawrence Shipoperators sent a “cry-of-alarm” letter on June 1 to Transport Minister Marc Garneau drawing particular attention to the new Article 37.1 of the Pilotage Act which allows the Minister of Transport to charge additional administration fees to the pilotage authorities. For carriers, the extra charge amounts to $39.64 for each pilot deployment.

Subsequently passing on these charges to the shipping companies is “unjustified,” said the letter of the  St. Lawrence Shipoperators. “These costs represent for our enterprises an additional bill of $507,000 in 2020 and $800,000 in 2021. The application of the new law should not entail additional expenditures for the shipping lines which must already absorb very high pilotage costs.”

To ensure the future survival and economic development of the industry, the St. Lawrence Shipoperators has asked the federal minister of transport “to postpone the application of these administrative costs for this year and in 2021 to allow our industry to overcome this crisis and thus fully participate in the economic recovery.”

In his reply, Mr. Garneau indicated that he was awaiting the conclusions of an inquiry being undertaken by the Canadian Transportation Agency concerning  opposing views on the new pilotage regime in order to analyze the financial constraints. “This reply has not convinced us,” Ms. Bédard told Maritime Magazine. (photo Louis Rhéaume)