Mayor Jack Mussallem is concerned there are no marine pilots living in Prince Rupert and has asked City staff to write a letter to the Pacific Pilotage Authority requesting that a marine pilot be permanently based in Prince Rupert.
“Currently there are no pilots that are residents in Prince Rupert. They only work here on a temporary basis. Our port has approximately 400 marine vessel movements a year,” the mayor said.
The volume of vessel traffic will only increase as the Ridley Coal increases the volume of coal to be shipped this year from 8.3 million metric tonnes to approximately 12 million metric tonnes, he said.
He also noted that log shipping activity is increasing and the liquefied natural gas facility planned for Kitimat should be shipping by 2013 adding more vessel movements in the area.
According to the mayor, resident marine pilots permanently based in Prince Rupert could serve both Prince Rupert and Kitimat as well as the log and or ship movements in Stewart.
“Prince Rupert is Canada’s second west coast port and with vessel traffic continuing to increase, the activity warrants resident marine pilots permanently based in Prince Rupert,” he said.
Under Canadian Law every foreign vessel over 350 registered tons must be piloted by a BC Coastal Pilots Ltd. vessel so there is no damage to the vessel, its crew or the marine environment.
The mayor’s letter is also slated to go to Captain Fred Denning, president of the British Columbia Coastal Pilots Ltd., the organization that has a contract with the Pacific Pilotage Authority for marine pilotage of Canada’s entire west coast.
When contacted by the Prince Rupert Northern View, Denning said Prince Rupert does have pilots living here year round, but on a rotating basis.
At present there are 95 pilots working on the west coast taking turns at different locations.
Throughout the year, two pilots live for a week at a time in Prince Rupert in two of the Harbourside Apartments rented by the B.C. Coastal Pilots Ltd.
“The service is maintained constantly and we find this is the best way. If the workload picks up, we are able to send more pilots on any given day and it’s been working well,” Denning said, adding there is a regular flow in the summer as pilots work on and off the cruise ships.
It’s a system BC Coastal Pilots Ltd. has been using for over 25 years and a practice Denning described as the best model.
“There was a time when pilots were specifically stationed in one area, but there were problems because we weren’t exposing them to other areas along the coast. We cover the whole coast from Washington to Alaska and this system ensures every pilot will be assigned to different areas along the coast,” he explained.
Aside from Prince Rupert, pilots stay in Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver. While the pilots are staying in Prince Rupert they also work on the water around Stewart and Kitimat on an “on-demand” basis.
“It’s very effective aside from the fact that no one pilot is living in Prince Rupert,” Denning said.