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Pilot Technology Today

Pilots have been dedicated to keeping the 15,000 miles of our province’s coast safe since the mid-1800s, but a lot has changed since then! The BC Coast Pilots (BCCP) use the latest innovations when it comes to ship movement and are constantly looking for new tools and ways to continue our strong record of safety.

The BCCP are at the forefront of shipboard navigation equipment, and have worked with electronic manufacturers to design, test and produce highly accurate and specialized equipment that exceeds the technology currently on-board vessels today. This equipment, coupled with a pilot’s years of local knowledge and ship handling, provides a world-class service for the Canadian public. When looking back at the history of bridge design, we can see the slow but steady integration of technologies that provide increased accuracy and visibility. We are first and foremost visual navigators, and the adoption of electronic aids has provided us with quick access to additional information and situational awareness over a large area.






During regular pilotage assignments, the BCCP utilize information from sources such as Marine Communications and Traffic Services, shipboard equipment, and our independent positioning systems such as Portable Pilot Units (PPUs) carried on board to ensure the safest navigation. This is the latest tool in precision navigation, compared to tools like compass pictured below.

Compass 1980s


Today (PPU)

You may be wondering, what on earth is a PPU? In collaboration with the Pacific Pilotage Authority, the BCCP helped develop new navigation technology called Portable Pilot Units (shown above) to help enhance safety in navigation. The development of this technology stemmed from our participation in the mitigation plans for tankers in the Second Narrows in Vancouver. These units are independent of the ship’s existing equipment, and are tailored for the unique pilotage conditions on the BC coast. This technology is continuously being updated for tide and weather patterns, hazards, marine traffic trends, and other factors to help pilots navigate more safely, efficiently, and accurately. They are now used for pilotage all along the coast in BC, and are mandatory for all pilots working in the Second Narrows.

Other technologies that have seen large developments include tug escort technology and simulation tech. The relationship between BC Coast Pilots and tug operations is over 160 years old! We continue to work with industry to find innovative ways to deploy tugs, review new tug technology, and continually evolve the ways tugs can be used to maximize the effectiveness and productivity of our waterways.


                                                                                                      Tug 1930s                                                                                                                                  
Tug Today

Ongoing training is a critical element of the BC Coast Pilots’ success rate, and one of the key elements to this training is through the use of marine simulators. Advances in simulation technologies have allowed us to undertake complex training scenarios that replicate a ship’s response to currents, waves and wind. These simulations are also critical during the risk assessment process for new projects along our coast. We are now able to use this technology to adjust elements in a scenario, find safe solutions to accommodate larger ship sizes, and develop docking procedures and safe practices.

With the rise of technology, and discussion about automated ships, we must remember that there is no replacement for the knowledge and experience of pilots.  The cutting-edge equipment our pilots have access to complements our expertise and experience. It helps a pilot successfully apply their local knowledge of the tides, weather patterns, and movement of other ships in different situations. However, technology can fail – and when it does, the pilot is there to navigate the ship in the traditional manner. We are excited to see how these technologies develop in the future for the betterment of marine safety in BC, and around the world!