Industry Insight: Captain Kevin Obermeyer, President & CEO, Pacific Pilotage Authority

By BCShippingNews
March 12 2013
Captain Kevin Obermeyer - photo by Dave Roels (
A guiding force for safety

For Captain Kevin Obermeyer, President & CEO of the Pacific Pilotage Authority (PPA), the importance of pilotage on the West Coast cannot be understated. Despite the intricacies of our coastline and the unpredictable weather, pilotage provides a level of oversight that offers a 99.97 per cent success rate of getting ships to port (and back to open seas) safely. While his days may be filled with industry and public consultations, candidate examinations and regulatory reviews, Captain Obermeyer’s main focus — to ensure safe passage for vessels over 10,000 tonnes — never falls far from view.

BCSN:Explain the structure of the Pacific Pilotage Authority (PPA) and its relationship to the pilots, specifically, to BC Coast Pilots Ltd. (BCCP).

KO: The PPA is here to enforce the Pilotage Act — basically to administer the safe and efficient marine pilotage operation on the West Coast. Within the Pilotage Act, there are certain objectives to be achieved, such as setting regulations, defining compulsory pilotage areas or deciding which vessels or classes of vessels will be subject to pilotage. While the Act is the foundation of governance, there are the General Pilotage Regulations which are set by Transport Canada and apply to all four pilotage authorities in Canada (ourselves, the Great Lakes, the Laurentian and the Atlantic Pilotage Authorities), and the Pacific Pilotage Regulations and Pacific Pilotage Tariff Regulations, which are specific to this coast.

We have a board that is made up of seven people: a Chairman, two members representing industry, two representing pilots and two representing the public. The chair and the two public members are put in place by the government; the pilots choose two and the Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia chooses two. Terms run from one to four years.

BC Coast Pilots Ltd. is a private company and all of the coastal pilots are partners of that company. We have a service agreement with them that covers Areas 2, 3, 4 and 5 — basically the coastal region. Area 1 is covered by the Fraser River Pilots who belong to the Canadian Merchant Service Guild and are employees of the PPA. When we negotiate with the Fraser River Pilots, it’s a union contract governed by general labour laws whereas with the BCCP, it’s a service contract governed by the Pilotage Act.

Where the contract pilots are concerned, there are certain conditions that are clearly defined within the Act — for example, they can’t go on strike and we must follow the Final Offer Selection process in negotiations. The contract with the BCCP is usually between four and five years in length — we’re presently on a five-year agreement that will expire December 31, 2016.

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