What Will Marine Pilotage Be Like in 150 Years?
Pilotage has been compulsory since 1805 and is part of a long maritime tradition in Quebec. What is singular is that even with all of today’s technologies, the pilot remains essential and is the watchdog of fundamental maritime safety that is at the heart of continued economic growth.
Currently, many projects are the subject of much debate and concern among riverside communities, from the Magdalen Islands to the Great Lakes.
Although not widely known by the public, pilotage is essential, especially in these times when ever-increasing traffic and cohabitation on the river pose real challenges. Besides their extensive knowledge of their environment, the strength of pilots lies in their professional independence from economic pressure. The pilotage corporations have a contractual link with the Pilotage Authorities, which are federal entities created in 1972. This link guarantees pilots’ autonomy and enables them to bring ships to port by making decisions based solely on marine safety.
As you read this, dozens of pilots are at work on the St. Lawrence River providing an essential service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. While traffic volume and vessel size are increasing, pilot efficiency (accident-free transit) continues to improve, nearing 99.9%.
The maritime industry wishing to develop automated (unmanned) vessels will be challenged to provide a higher standard of safety than manned vessels in order to convince authorities and the public that they can be replaced by automated systems.
Until then, marine pilots will continue to work behind the scenes, contributing to the movement of essential goods while being mindful of the river’s continued well-being.
By recognizing the challenges of marine transportation on the St. Lawrence River, the vital role played by the 200 pilots who navigate it every day is better understood. Essential, unpredictable, and fragile all at once, the St. Lawrence deserves our full attention.
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Would you like to follow the ships live on the river so you can identify them? Download the free app: www.marinetraffic.com