Great Lakes Region Passage Plan

Compulsory Pilotage in the Great Lakes Region

Ships subject to compulsory pilotage:

  1. Ships of more than 1500 GT;
  2. Ships not registered in Canada of more than 35 metres in overall length;
  3. Tugs engaged in towing or pushing two or more ships and the combined length of those ships, including the length of any lines, is 80 metres or more;
  4. Tugs that are outside a harbour and is part of an arrangement of ships whose total gross tonnage is 1500 gross tonnage or more; and
  5. Tugs engaged in towing or pushing a ship that is 80 metres in length or more.

Compulsory Pilotage Areas

  • Cornwall District (the waters of the St. Lawrence River and lakes between St. Lambert Lock, St-Lambert, QC and Snell Lock, Massena, N.Y.).
  • International District no. 1 (the waters of the St. Lawrence River between Snell Lock and Cape Vincent, New York, at the entrance to Lake Ontario and includes Kingston, Ontario).
  • Lake Ontario District (The waters and ports of Lake Ontario and the navigable waters within the limits of the Port of Churchill, Manitoba).
  • International District no. 2 (the waters of the Welland Canal between Port Weller and Port Colborne, Ontario, Lake Erie and the waters of the connecting channels between Lake Erie and Lake Huron).
  • International District no. 3 (the waters and ports of Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior including the connecting waters and Georgian Bay).

Great Lakes Pilotage Regulations:,_c._1266/

Pilotage Act

Conduct of the ship: Article 38.01 of the Pilotage Act state that licensed pilots have the exclusive legal responsibility for the conduct of the ship and for ensuring its safe navigation.

In Canada, the pilot is not restricted to an advisory role, as it is in the case of other countries. The pilot is responsible for and controls the ship’s movement at all times, including during berthing and unberthing, while remaining responsible to the captain for the safe navigation of the ship.

Pilotage Act:
General Pilotage Regulations:


  • Communications on board the vessel: The language between the pilot and bridge watchkeeping personnel should be conducted in English language or in a language other than English that is common to all those involved in the operation.
  • Communication Language with Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) is conducted in English in International district no. 1, International Lake Ontario District, International Districts no. 2 and 3. Communications are conducted in French in the Cornwall District.

-Refer to Part IV- Radio Communications in the Seaway Handbook for listed stations and communication procedures

Vessel Related Particulars for the Great Lakes Region

Seaway Maximum Ship Dimensions:
a) Maximum draught: 8.08m (26’ 06”), may be subject to change due to seasonal influences.
b) Maximum Air Draft: 35.5m (116’06”)
c) Maximum length: 222.5 m in overall length (729’ 11”)
d) Maximum beam: 23.2 m in extreme breadth (76’ 01”)
e) Seaway Channel depth in the Seaway is maintained at 8.2 meters (26’10”)

Seaway Handbook:

Equipment, Propulsion, and Onboard Personnel Requirements:

  • Radars: At least one functional stabilized radar must be accessible at all times for the pilot to use.
  • Gyro Compass: Compass error cannot be greater than 2°.
  • Magnetic Compass: Compass error cannot be greater than 5°.
  • Radio: VHF radio telephone must have sufficient power to communicate a minimum distance of 48Km. The pilot will initiate communications with MCTS centers and other ships. If the information exchange is in French, the pilot will translate to the bridge team the details and/or arrangements made for meeting and passing other ships.
  • Steering: The helmsman steering the vessel must be competent and well rested.
  • Steering Pumps: All watchkeeping officers and helmsmen must be fully conversant with backup steering systems available and changeover procedures in an emergency.
  • Main Engine: Must be ready for manoeuvring at all times without notice.
  • Anchors: Must be ready for deployment at all times. A crew member must be equipped with a radio and ready to instantaneously release the anchor(s) if necessary.
  • Mooring Equipment: Must be in good working order and to the specifications required for seaway transit.

Additional Information and Procedures:

Transit speed: The ship’s transit speed is determined by the pilot in accordance with the Seaway speed limitations, with meteorological conditions or other specific considerations.

Environmental Data: Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System website updates current information related to water Levels, water temperatures, and wind conditions.

Details of anchoring, berthing and unberthing manoeuvres: At an appropriate time during the voyage or prior to departure, the pilot shall inform the bridge team about the planned manoeuvre, the number and position of tugs, the handling sequence for mooring lines and any other procedures specifically required under the existing conditions.

Use of tugs: Wind strength and direction of the current where the ship is to berth or unberth from, the position of cranes or loading arms on the dock, the presence of other vessels in the vicinity and ice conditions often determine whether the assistance of one or more tugs is required.

Presence of ice: In winter conditions, the ship must comply with the guidelines set out in Transport Canada complementary documents TP 5064 “Ice navigation in Canadian waters” and TP 14335 “Winter Navigation on the River and Gulf of St. Lawrence”.

Great Lakes Region ice maps can be viewed with the following link:

Reference to Approximate Transit Times

St-Lambert LockCôte Ste-Catherine Lock1.5
Côte Ste-Catherine LockLower Beauharnois Lock2.5
Lower Beauharnois LockUpper Beauharnois Lock1
Upper Beauharnois LockSnell Lock5-6
Snell LockEisenhower Lock1
Eisenhower LockIroquois Lock3
Iroquois LockCape Vincent6.5
Cape VincentPort Weller10-12
Port Wellerlock 7 (Welland Canal)6
lock 7Port Colborne3-4
Port ColborneDetroit Pilot Boat16
Detroit Pilot BoatPort Huron5-6
Port HuronDetour14
DetourBuoy 337-8
Buoy 33Thunder Bay18
Buoy 33Duluth24

Passage Plans

The Great Lakes Pilotage Authority strongly recommends any vessel that will be requiring pilotage throughout the Great Lakes region to read and understand the regulations associated with the service. The following links are informative guidelines that are intended to provide a general overview of the Great Lakes Region passage plan. The enclosed links to images of the passage plan are not to be used for navigation. The Great Lakes Pilotage Authority pilots are licensed professionals with the mission of establishing, operating, maintaining and administering in the interest of safety, an efficient pilotage service within the Great Lakes region. They will transit vessels according to their local knowledge and expertise and amend courses and speeds as required throughout the navigational season. Thank you for choosing the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority for your pilotage needs.

Please select the following link to view the GLPA Passage Plans.

Cornwall District
District No.1
Lake Ontario District
District No.2
District No.3