Article

99.9%: Canadian Pacific marine pilots’ tanker safety success


by Context - Enery examined - published on 19 May 2022 75 -

Training is key to Pacific marine pilots’ tanker safety success

Consistently 99.9 per cent safe operation of large vessels including oil tankers.

Article by Context - Energy examined (Holly Quan) - Apr 29, 2022
Photo taken from YouTube


Marine pilots on Canada’s West Coast have an exceptional safety record in the world’s largest pilot-mandatory zone for large vessels including oil tankers.
Recent news of large ships running aground has heightened awareness of marine safety. On March 14, 2022, the cruise ship Norwegian Escape ran aground off the coast of the Dominican Republic (it was freed on March 15). The container ship Ever Forward ran aground in Chesapeake Bay off the coast of Maryland on the U.S. east coast on March 13.

Could this happen in Canada? It’s not impossible, but Canada has world-class marine safety built into how we manage shipping that goes a long way to minimizing the chance of a mishap. One of the keys to the safety regime is our use of professional marine pilots.

Canadians care about marine safety. We have the world’s longest coastline and coastal areas of great beauty and ecological sensitivity. With the completion of the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) pipeline in 2023, more oil will be transported by ship from Canada’s West Coast to international markets. Some people have raised concerns about the risks of shipping oil through Canadian waters. But Canada’s world-class marine safety organizations are more than up to the task.

Two organizations manage West Coast marine traffic
Kevin Obermeyer, President and CEO, Pacific Pilotage Authority (Photo from LinkedIn)
Kevin Obermeyer, President and CEO, Pacific Pilotage Authority (Photo from LinkedIn)
Kevin Obermeyer, President and CEO, Pacific Pilotage Authority (Photo from LinkedIn)
Kevin Obermeyer, President and CEO, Pacific Pilotage Authority (Photo from LinkedIn)
The Pacific Pilotage Authority (PPA) is a federal Crown corporation established in 1972 (the first marine pilot in B.C. was licenced in 1958 – the coastal area previously had pilot requirements under other organizations). Currently there are 114 marine pilots at various levels of training and authority. All but 10 belong to a separate organization, British Columbia Coast Pilots Ltd., which provides contract piloting services to the PPA. The remaining 10 pilots are employed directly by the PPA and provide pilotage on the Fraser River.

“Marine experience is important, but so is the business side to effectively manage the pilotage program,” notes PPA president and CEO Kevin Obermeyer. “We focus on administration and providing fully co-ordinated pilotage services within B.C.’s compulsory pilotage zone.”
Captain Steve Kennedy, President, B.C. Coast Pilots Ltd. and unrestricted marine pilot (photo courtesy of B.C. Coast Pilots Ltd.)
Captain Steve Kennedy, President, B.C. Coast Pilots Ltd. and unrestricted marine pilot (photo courtesy of B.C. Coast Pilots Ltd.)
Captain Steve Kennedy, President, B.C. Coast Pilots Ltd. and unrestricted marine pilot (photo courtesy of B.C. Coast Pilots Ltd.)
Captain Steve Kennedy, President, B.C. Coast Pilots Ltd. and unrestricted marine pilot (photo courtesy of B.C. Coast Pilots Ltd.)
Capt. Steve Kennedy is the president of British Columbia Coast Pilots Ltd. He’s an unrestricted marine pilot with more than 30 years of seagoing experience. He comments, “Becoming a pilot is the pinnacle of the marine sector in B.C. Pilots are trusted and respected because of our rigorous training and experience. It’s the local knowledge we value most. We can teach a person about handling a ship but understanding of the coast and waters comes from years of experience. It’s irreplaceable.”

Every vessel of 350 tonnes or more (except government of Canada vessels, B.C. Ferries and ships captained by Canadian armed forces personnel) must have a pilot onboard when travelling in the coastal compulsory pilotage zone, also called the pilot-mandatory zone.

Pilots are professional mariners who have years of experience and are familiar with coastal waters. Although a ship’s captain is very familiar with their own vessel and crew, they may not be familiar with the specifics of each port where their vessel must go. B.C. pilots have a lifetime of experience in how tides, geography and weather can affect how ships move in and out of B.C.’s harbours. Pilots board a vessel and work with the crew to apply this exceptionally thorough, local expertise to make sure ships, crews, passengers and cargo move, arrive and depart safely in coastal waters.

Most pilotage authorities around the world manage marine traffic within a port or along a river, covering a relatively small area. But the PPA’s mandatory zone is vast, two miles off any given point of land along the West Coast including numerous inlets and narrow passage, and around all islands. It’s the largest such zone in the world.
Stellar safety performance
B.C. coast pilots have developed a safety practice that’s internationally recognized. Effective planning, using the latest navigation equipment, community involvement and training, plus many layers of safety procedures have resulted in a stellar safety record: consistently 99.9 per cent safe operation of large vessels including oil tankers.

“Our record compares favourably with other pilotage authorities worldwide in terms of safety performance,” says Obermeyer. “The difference here is scale, and the extent to which we seek people with extensive knowledge of the coastal environment no matter where they are within the mandatory zone.”
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