The history of pilotage is closely linked to that of Canada's own history. Settling and development of the French colony in Québec city was founded on the existence of the St.Lawrence River, which made it accessible to France. This new colony settled along the banks of this waterway and travelling meant navigating in shallow waters where difficult conditions and dangers were unknown to the sailors of ocean going vesssels. Thus local people with a thorough understanding of the nature and unique features of the river were called upon.
In 1696, Governor Frontenac asked that Louis Joliette be appointed professor of hydrography; it was said that no one could pilot a ship towards the mouth of the St.Lawrence and in the Gulf like he could.

Even though there are no documents establishing without a doubt who was the first St.Lawrence  pilot, it is believed that Abraham Martin from Québec was the first 'royal pilot' or pilot to the Crown. His nomination dates back to December 28, 1647, two years after he received a land concession on the outskirts of Québec City, now known as the Planes of Abraham.

Abraham martinFrom 1760, under the English regime, pilotage became strictly regimented. In addition to the delivery of pilotage licenses, various laws stipulated guidelines relevant to upholding the service, pilot conduct, their well-being, their tariffs, etc.

The establishment of regulations adopted by the Pilotage Act was preceded by public consultations and two public inquiries resulting in the 'Marler' Report in 1973 as well as the Desjardins Report in 1974.  These two reports were followed by a complete evaluation of the pilotage situation by the  Ministry of Transport. Eight new studies have since been added in the past twenty-five years, the latest being the Risk Analysis for Post-Panamax vessels.                           

We would like to thank the historian Jean Leclerc for his vast research work and writings.  His many works published on the St.Lawrence make him a detective who demystifies the relationships between man and pilot through history and finds what links them together to our majestic St.Lawrence.



To all those who doubted the strategic importance of the St.Lawrence from a historical, economic and above all a political standpoint, Jean Leclerc's work presents a final and unequivocal answer.' H.Morisette


propulsé par E-majine