While it’s impressive enough just to be a marine pilot in British Columbia, to be a marine pilot on the Fraser River takes a certain expertise that can only come with years of watching and working the river. Captain Mike Armstrong, Chairman of the Fraser River Pilots, is one of eight such mariners that can claim to possess the skills to navigate and handle ships coming into one of the most unique and dynamic waterways in the world. And with a 100 per cent safety record for more than three years running (and a close to perfect score for the past 20 years), we can think of none more qualified to provide insights into the intricacies of pilotage on the Fraser River.
BCSN: Let’s start with a bit of background on your career.
MA: I started working on the water in 1976, on small log towing tugs, and over the following 25 years worked for various companies and on all types of tugs — from harbour tugs to offshore towing as well as articulated tug and barges (ATBs).
During that time, I quickly acquired my Mate and Master’s tickets as soon as my seatime would allow. I also did two stints ashore — one at Marine Communication and Traffic Services for Vancouver traffic in the 1980s and another as Operations Manager for Sea-Link Marine in the 1990s. In 2001, I joined the Fraser River Pilots.
I served as President of the Canadian Merchant Service Guild Western Branch a few years ago and am presently the Canadian Marine Pilots Association (CMPA) director for the Fraser River pilotage district, Chairman of the Fraser River Pilots (FRP) Committee and a working pilot. I’m also a technical advisor for the Fraser River Industrial Association.
BCSN: Could you provide a bit of history about the FRP? And further to that, please explain the difference between yourselves and the BC Coast Pilots Ltd.
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