Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee.
I'm going to confine my comments today to who we are and what we do on the west coast with respect to the marine environment. We are the Pacific Pilotage Authority, one of four pilotage authorities across Canada and a federal crown corporation operating under the Pilotage Act of 1972.
Our mandate is to provide a safe and efficient pilotage service on the west coast of Canada on a basis of financial self-sufficiency. We do this by working in partnership with the pilots and the shipping industry to protect the interests of Canada.
Our area of operation extends from the Washington State border in the south to the Alaskan border in the north. As a rule of thumb, if you extend each major point around that coast by two miles and join them all together, that will be the area of operations we have as our compulsory pilotage area. Within this area, all vessels over 350 gross tonnes, about 150 metres, will require a licensed pilot. In every instance, any new projects and terminals will require consultation with the pilots and the authority to ensure that navigational safety is not compromised.
We have developed guidelines and standards for many of the more difficult passages on the coast. The marine pilots on the coast of B.C. are all masters in their own right, with many years of experience in local waters. We provide marine pilots to all vessels over 350 gross tonnes. They're a resource for the master and the bridge team, providing them with expert local assistance. They are responsible to the master for the safe navigation of the vessel while it is in compulsory pilotage waters. The exceptions to the 350-tonne rule are government vessels such as those manned by DND and the coast guard.
On the west coast there are two groups of pilots, the BC Coast Pilots Ltd. and the Fraser River Pilots' Association. The BC Coast Pilots Ltd., about 100 FTEs, are a private company—and you heard from the president earlier—that contracts its services to us through a service agreement. They cover all the coastal assignments from Stewart in the north to Victoria in the south and all ports in between. The Fraser River Pilots, of which there are seven, are employees of the authority and operate as specialists in fast-water conditions on the Fraser River from Sand Heads to Mission.
We're extremely proud of our safety record, which regularly exceeds a 99.9% success rate. In 2011 we handled 12,144 assignments and had four minor issues, for a 99.97% success rate. This success is not accidental. The exam process is one of the most stringent the candidate will face, and an enormous amount of time and money is spent on training to maintain our level of safety. In order to become a pilot, you need to pass two written exams and an oral exam with a minimum of 70% in each. The emphasis is on local knowledge. Once passed, you are placed on a waiting list until you start your career as an apprentice pilot. The apprenticeship can last from six and a half months to two years, and it involves hands-on training with a senior pilot as well as—