At marine pilot school

Name a job where your work environment is the St. Lawrence River, and every day you get to drive one of the many different types of vessels that crisscross it. Answer: St. Lawrence pilot.


The work

All vessels heading upriver are required by law to be guided by a St. Lawrence pilot from Les Escoumins to Montreal. The St. Lawrence pilot boards, assumes the conduct of the vessel and tells the helmsman what heading to follow. Marine pilots are also in charge of vessel docking and undocking manoeuvres

The training

After acquiring at least 1,000 days of experience as navigation officers (four years of training in a recognized institution), selected candidates must complete two more years of training, including 280 apprentice trips under the supervision of a licensed pilot. After successfully completing a rigorous exam process, they become Class C pilots. They then have the right to guide vessels up to 165 metres. As they gain experience, they are entrusted with larger and larger vessels. After five years, they become Class A pilots, licenced to conduct the largest vessels allowed in the seaway, like Georges Guay (read: On board the OOCL Montreal).

Do you fit the profile?

Marine pilotage is the highest specialization in the marine industry. The first requirement to be admitted to the course is to be an officer in the merchant marine. Some candidates are even captains.

Good pilots are calm, cautious, have foresight, show good judgement and make decisions quickly. Their top objective is to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew, and the security of navigation on the river. Like wine, pilots get better over time: “Those of us with the most experience say we became excellent after 25 years on the job,” said pilot Simon Lebrun (read: Pilot and creator of events).

For effective succession management, the Laurentian
Pilotage Authority and the corporations of St. Lawrence
pilots jointly evaluate needs and plan the recruitment of
candidates for the position of St. Lawrence pilots.


Marine pilots share the same qualities as globetrotters: curiosity, attraction to foreign cultures and openness to others. In their case, instead of travelling the world, the world comes to them. As a foreign crew’s first contact with Quebec, a pilot is something of an ambassador; offering a warm welcome is part of the job. Some foreign officers drill pilots with questions on our politics, economy and sites to visit in Montreal. They want to know everything. 

Vessel masters hand over the conduct of their vessel but they retain overall responsibility. A huge amount of responsibility rests on their shoulders. “That’s why it is very important to establish a relationship of trust with him or her,” stated Éric Bergeron (read: On board the OOCL Montreal). “Even with the strong silent type of captains, I get them to crack a smile.” 

Lastly, passion seems to be a characteristic of St. Lawrence pilots, as shown by Simon Lebrun: “Entering my hometown of Montreal on a huge container ship early in the morning, just as the sun is rising, it’s fantastic!” To learn more about this occupation, visit the websites of the Corporations of St.Lawrence Pilots: