With an average safety performance record of 99.98 per cent, the BC Coast Pilots Ltd. (BCCP) is one of the most successful pilotage companies in the world. This doesn’t happen, pardon the poor choice of words, by accident. From tough entrance exams that require intimate knowledge of both vessel operations and the geography of Canada’s West Coast, to mandatory refresher and professional development training programs, to fitting in to a culture that is strong on professionalism and conscientiously committed to ensuring safe passage for ships in our waters, the BCCP is an asset to British Columbia’s coast that makes the marine industry proud. Representing the BCCP as President (on and off) for the last 10 years, Captain Fred Denning offers BC Shipping News readers a glimpse into the world of pilotage.
Photo above: Captain Fred Denning, President, BC Coast Pilots Ltd. (credit: Dave Roels, www.daveroels.com).
BCSN: To start, I’d like to understand the structure of the BCCP a bit better.
FD: Under the Canadian Pilotage Act, the Pacific Pilotage Authority (PPA) is mandated to provide pilots for the West Coast of Canada. To do this, they have two options: either by having employees, like the Fraser River pilots, or with “contract” pilots like the BCCP. The BC Coast Pilots Ltd. was formed in 1973 when the Act was changed based on recommendations from the Bernier Report on pilotage.
There are five areas with the PPA’s mandate. The Fraser River pilots cover Area 1 and we cover the remaining four areas that span over 15,000 miles of coast from Washington to Alaska.
The BCCP is set up so that each licensed pilot is an equal shareholder in the company and every pilot has a vote in company business, including the selection of the board of five directors. The directors chose amongst themselves the officer positions — President, Vice President and three directors at large. Each position comes with specific responsibilities, including participation on the Pilotage Training and Examination Committee (a joint committee with the PPA) which looks after training programs as well as examinations for candidates.
BCSN: Could you describe the separation of responsibilities between yourselves and the PPA?
FD: As a private company, we pay our own wages and benefits as well as our own office and overhead. We have six employees including Paul Devries, our General Manager, and just over 100 pilots.
As the regulator, the PPA provides the infrastructure for the operation of a safe and efficient pilot system. They own and crew the boats, provide dispatching services, a pilot’s transportation to and from the ship, and they also pay for training. Basically, anything to do with the operation of the pilot system is the PPA’s responsibility.