All countries employ marine pilots to enhance navigational safety within coastal waters on the basis of the high degree of detailed and expert knowledge that a marine pilot brings to his or her specific port or coastline.
Canada is no exception, being divided into four pilotage authorities. On the west coast of Canada the “Pacific Pilotage Authority” was created in 1972 under the authority of the Canadian Pilotage Act and reports to the federal Minister of Transport as a crown corporation.
The mandate of the Authority is to maintain safe and effective marine pilotage and related services in the coastal waters of British Columbia, including the Fraser River.
In British Columbia, pilotage is physically conducted by the BC Coast Pilots Ltd. formed in 1973 but whose history can be traced back to 1858. At any time, BC Coast pilots comprises around 100 highly experienced pilots conducting the safe navigation of vessels of all categories and sizes on the coastline and within the ports of British Columbia with an accident free record of 99.98% out of over 11,000 assignments per year
All inland waters of British Columbia are subject to compulsory pilotage (areas shaded red in the chart below).
In the Fraser River, a small group of usually 7 to 8 specialized marine pilots conduct the safe navigation of vessels on that waterway. These pilots are in the direct employ of the Pacific Pilotage Authority. All pilots receive regular skills training refreshers both in simulators and in manned models.
The Authority’s budget for training is in the $500,000 range per annum.
The Authority itself is fully financed and sustained by the marine industry as mandated by the Canadian Pilotage Act.