The General Pilotage Regulations in Canada, adopted under the Pilotage Act, set minimum standards for pilotage applicable to each of the country’s four pilotage authorities. Since the last amendment to the General Pilotage Regulations some eight years ago, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 came into force on July 1, 2007, together with the Marine Personnel Regulations (“MPR”). The MPR established new health qualifications for seafarers, differing from those provided for in the General Pilotage Regulations. The inconsistency has now been rectified by the adoption of Regulations Amending the General Pilotage Regulations, which came into force on April 10, 2012.

Among the main changes made by the amended Regulations are the following:

  • Licenced pilots (and pilotage certificate holders) must have a medical examination at least once every two years, rather than annually as previously.
  • Nevertheless, the designated physician may require additional examinations in order to monitor the physical or mental fitness of the applicant or holder.
  • The designated physician conducting a medical examination, in assessing an applicant or holder, shall take account of the medical fitness standards referred to and set out in Division 8 of Part 2 of the MPR (rather than with the Physician’s Guide that previously governed the medical examination of seafarers).
  • A medical report now remains valid for not more than two years from the date of its issuance, rather than one year as previously.
  • An applicant or holder having reasonable grounds to believe that he or she is no longer physically or mentally fit for pilotage duties as specified in the Regulations shall inform the pilotage authority immediately and request a medical re-examination.
  • A holder requiring vision or hearing aids must be using them while performing pilotage duties and, as the MPR specifies, must possess at least two of them (in the case of vision aids) and replacement batteries (in the case of hearing aids).

The amended Regulations further provide a more concise classification of the qualifications needed for compulsory pilotage areas in Canada. There is a table outlining each of the compulsory pilotage areas and the required certificate of competency in each such area. If more than one certificate of competency is set out in the table for an area, the applicant must hold at least one of those certificates. The names of the certificates have also been updated to reflect the new names found in the MPR.

Applicants must have accumulated a certain period of sea service in order to obtain a license or pilotage certificate. These criteria have been partially reformulated in the amended Regulations by providing a minimum period of 12 months as master of a ship or at least 24 months as a “person in charge of the deck watch of a ship”. Such a person is defined as one who “… has the immediate charge of the navigation, communications and safety of the ship and holds a certificate that authorizes him or her to do so.” The other criteria remain unchanged.

The Auditor General Special Report of April 2008 concerning the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority called for the establishment of a mechanism to provide reasonable assurance that Canadian masters and deck watch officers have the competencies to ensure safe passage of ships in compulsory pilotage areas. Such a mechanism was introduced by amendments to the Great Lakes Pilotage Regulations which came into force on July 1, 2011. The recent amendment to the General Pilotage Regulations will facilitate the transition for all officers already performing pilotage duty on the Great Lakes from an “exemption” regime for Canadian- flagged vessels towards a future “certification” regime, by revising section 10 of the latter Regulations to add all appropriate certificates of competency required to allow for this transition.