Pilotage in Canada

Atlantic Region

The Atlantic region is home to some of the deepest natural harbours on the eastern seaboard of North America. It also has some of the world's highest tides, most extreme weather conditions and ice-infested waters. In addition, visibility is reduced by fog, rain or snow for as many as 22 days a month.

The ports of Halifax and Sydney, and the Strait of Canso, in Nova Scotia; the port of Saint John, in New Brunswick; and of St. John's as well as facilities along Placentia Bay, in Newfoundland, and Voisey’s Bay Labrador are all important transportation links, not only for the region but for the entire country and the United States.

In terms of volume, petroleum products are the most important of all commodities shipped through the region, with more than 100 million tonnes loaded and unloaded annually from VLCCs (very large crude carriers), Suezmax and coastal tankers at Saint John, Halifax, Canso and Placentia Bay. In addition, the LNG terminal at the port of Saint John is the most significant such facility in Canada.

Pilots operating in Atlantic Canada's are seasoned master mariners with over 20 years of combined nautical training and sea experience. They must meet or exceed the minimum requirement of Master Intermediate Trade (ON1) in order to qualify to sit for the examinations held by the Atlantic Pilotage Authority for a pilot license.

A wide range of vessels routinely transit throughout the compulsory pilotage areas of Atlantic Canada, in close proximity to densely populated areas, tourist destinations and environmentally sensitive ecosystems. The last tanker to suffer a significant spill in the Atlantic, however, was the Arrow - prior to the establishment of the current Pilotage Act in 1972. It grounded in 1970 with 18 million litres of fuel oil onboard, contaminating 190 miles of shoreline in the Strait of Canso and significantly affecting the local inshore fishery. More than 40 years after its grounding, oil from the Arrow is still found just below the surface on local beaches.

The safe passage of such vessels is ensured by the fine work of the 50 pilots who guide them, all year round, through the region's vital waterways.


In this short interview, CMPA Vice-President for the Atlantic, Capt. Andrew Rae discusses: