Westshore Terminals Limited v. Leo Ocean S.A. (The Cape Apricot)

In Collisions and Ships on (Updated )

PrĂ©cis: The Federal Court held that a pilot whose certificate of competency issued under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 had expired was nevertheless a “licensed pilot” within the meaning of the Pilotage Act with the result that the pilot was entitled to limit his liability and the ship owner was liable for his negligence.

Facts: On 9 December 2012 the defendant vessel collided with and caused significant damage to a trestle/causeway at the plaintiff’s coal loading facility. At the time of the collision the ship was under the command of a compulsory pilot. After the collision the pilot realized that his certificate of competency issued pursuant to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 had expired. He took immediate steps to rectify this and his certificate of competency was renewed. Nevertheless, the ship owner brought this motion for a determination of points of law including:

(1) Was the pilot a “licensed pilot” within the meaning of the Pilotage Act;
(2) Is the pilot entitled to limit his liability to $1,000 pursuant to s. 40 of the Pilotage Act; and
(3) Is the ship owner liable for the negligence of the pilot pursuant to s. 41 of the Pilotage Act.

Decision: The pilot was a licensed pilot at the time of the collision and is entitled to limit his liability. The ship owner is liable for the acts of the pilot.

Held:

(1) This motion raises an issue of statutory interpretation concerning the meaning of the words “licensed pilot” in ss. 22(4), 40 and 41 of the Pilotage Act. The ship owner argues that the pilot was not licensed within the meaning of the Pilotage Act with the result that the pilot cannot limit his liability and the ship owner is not liable for the pilot’s negligent acts. The ship owner says it can rely upon the common law defence of compulsory pilotage. The ship owner argues that, because a valid certificate of competency is required to initially obtain a pilot’s licence, an expired certificate of competency means the license is no longer valid. The interpretation of the words “licensed pilot” begins with a consideration of the purpose of the act and the definition of the words in the act and related regulations. The purpose of the Pilotage Act is to establish compulsory pilotage areas. Safety is a paramount concern, a factor that is addressed by ensuring only qualified individuals are licensed. There are, however, no temporal restrictions on a pilot license once issued. Section 27 of the Pilotage Act gives the licensing authority the power to suspend, cancel or revoke a license. Once issued a license remains in force unless suspended, cancelled or revoked by the licensing authorities. Accordingly, the pilot was licensed.

(2) As the pilot was a “licenced pilot”, it follows that he is entitled to limit his liability pursuant to s. 40.

(3) Further, because the pilot was licensed, pursuant to s. 41 the ship owner is responsible for the acts of the pilot.