Waterways Management

Water Level Forecasts - St. Lawrence Ship Channel

Forecasts of minimum water levels at Montreal, Sorel and Trois Rivieres, over a four-week period, to assist commercial shipping in short term planning of operations. 

Marine Navigation Services - Safe Waterways

Waterways management in the Canadian Coast Guard

The waterways management program of the Canadian Coast Guard

Waterways Management

Navigability in Canadian waterways is highly influenced by water levels and the bottom condition of shipping channels. The monitoring and maintenance services provided by the Waterways Management program enable CCG to help ensure safe, economical, and efficient movement of ships in Canadian waterways. These services also contribute to the maintenance of specific navigable channels, reduce marine navigation risks, and support environmental protection.

What We Do...

  • Monitor channel bathymetry by surveying commercial channels, on a periodic basis, to identify the bottom conditions, changes from previous survey as well as restrictions on or hazards to safe navigation, and provide this information to mariners, pilots and other stakeholders;
  • Provide users with marine safety information, in association with other programs within CCG and DFO.
  • Provide users with water-depth forecasts in the commercial channels in the St. Lawrence, Fraser, and Mackenzie Rivers;
  • Dredging of the Canadian portions of the Great Lakes connecting Channels and manage dredging of the St. Lawrence River Ship Channel;
  • Contribute to the international control of water levels in the St. Lawrence River and protect navigational interests, as a member of the Operations Advisory Group;
  • Operate the Canso Canal;
  • Provide guidelines and assistance on channel design and use;
  • Assist DFO Real Property Branch, in the management of marine structures that help manage currents and water levels, wave climates, ice covers, sedimentation rates and patterns, and scour and erosion. These structures also reduce channel maintenance needs and prevent ice jams from forming, thereby reducing CCG icebreaking needs.

Who we serve...

The Waterways Management program’s main clients are mariners, pilots, the shipping industry, channel owners and operators, ferry operators, and fishers, as well as the various associations and committees that represent them. The program generally engages with clients to share program vision and direction, identify perceived gaps or existing variations in service delivery, and foster meaningful exchanges to address user needs while ensuring that expectations are realistic. This is accomplished through the existing media, such as the CCG website and various printed media, as well as workshops and information sessions. Clients are also informed through various fora, such as meetings of the National and Regional Canadian Marine Advisory Councils.

Looking Forward...

The Waterways Management program is influenced by the trend to bigger and faster vessels, and increasing pressure to maximize water levels and channel depths for optimum loading, climatic change, safety manoeuvring limits, and the need to balance between environmental and economical interests. These issues increase the need to maintain our engineering guidelines for the design, maintenance and utilization of commercial channels. Users continue to ask for current waterways conditions such as water-depth forecasts and channel-bottom information, to the extent poosible.

In this context, the program needs to be constantly aware of innovations in technologies and management practices that can support more efficient operations. Well-managed partnerships are also essential for efficient coordination and the avoidance of duplication of activities with internal and external partners. The Waterways Management program is continually integrating new initiatives to improve the information it provides to its clients. In line with this objective, the program provides a four-week advance forecast of water levels in the St. Lawrence River and another water-level forecast called the AVADEPTH service for the Fraser River in the Pacific Region; the program is also involved in the MARINFO project in the Quebec Region and in the definition and implementation of e-Navigation in CCG.

Key Initiative: Post-Panamax Study, St. Lawrence River

Given the increase in marine traffic that is widely expected to occur in the near future, Canadian ports are seeking ways to increase their competitiveness. Shipping industry representatives have informed us of their plans to use new-generation Post-PanamaxFootnote 1 vessels, especially on the restricted channel of the St. Lawrence River between Quebec City and Montreal. Post-Panamax vessels do not meet current CCG guidelines for allowing vessels to travel in both directions in some sections of the shipping channel. However, these same guidelines also allow the use of modern tools such as electronic simulators to refine the design of the channel to verify the possibility of safe passage.

In partnership with Transport Canada (TC), the Laurentian Pilotage Authority, and shipping industry representatives, Waterways Management participated in a risk assessment of post-Panamax vessels navigating the St. Lawrence River up to the port of Montreal. CCG and TC will analyze the recommendations of the report and propose next steps, which could include the implementation of the recommendations, justifications for additional analysis, or any other actions required to ensure navigation safety and protection of the environment.

Footnote 1

Panamax vessels are those whose dimensions are such that they can fit through the locks of the Panama Canal. Post-Panamax vessels are larger than Panamax vessels and therefore cannot fit through the locks of the Panama Canal. Major construction work is under way to allow the passage of wider vessels through this canal, which will have a significant impact on the size of vessels in the world's fleet. The width of Panamax vessels is around 32.5m while the post-Panamax vessels being studied have a width that varies between 40m and 44m.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Geographic Information System GIS Group


The GeoMapper is a GIS application, developed using ESRI's ArcView GIS, that allows Coast Guard Pacific Region staff to view, query and analyze spatial business data. With the GeoMapper you can:

History of GeoMapper Development

At the beginning of 1996, a consultant was contracted by Coast Guard in the Pacific Region to produce a GIS strategy document that would help to determine how GIS could be used more effectively within CCG. The contractor conducted interviews with Coast Guard personnel and compiled information on what types of geographic data sources existed within the Coast Guard and could be used within a GIS. The final document, the CCG - Pacific Region GIS Strategy, was completed on May 10, 1996.

GeoMapper Features

Find charts for a particular location

Use the GeoMapper to find and display a chart for a particular area or point simply by clicking the mouse at the desired location on a map of British Columbia. The GeoMapper will determine which charts cover the location and will display a list from which you can choose a chart to be displayed on the screen. Then choose which types of information you would like to display 'on top' of the chart.

Use the GeoMapper to find a chart for a particular place name simply by entering the name. The GeoMapper will determine which charts cover that place name and will display a list from which you can choose a chart to be displayed on the screen.

Use the GeoMapper to find a chart by its number. Enter the chart number (ie. 3463) and the chart will be displayed on the screen.

Create maps to display only certain features

Use the GeoMapper to display only aids made of concrete in the Prince Rupert area.

Use the GeoMapper to display only SAR incidents that involved the RCMP.

Create maps with various feature classifications

Use the GeoMapper to classify all CCG Auxiliary sites by SAR Zone. Each site's location might be shown in a different colour according to zone.

Use the GeoMapper to classify all SAR incidents by class, with each incident given a different symbol shape according to the class of incident.

Measure distances and calculate travel times

Use the GeoMapper to measure the range and bearing (distance and direction) between two points of land.

Use the GeoMapper to calculate the travel time between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert if travelling at 12 knots.

Analyze geographic data

Use one of the GeoMapper's maps to pinpoint the location of a SAR incident, then tell the GeoMapper to find the nearest Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit to that incident. The site will then be highlighted on the screen and database details can then be displayed and/or printed.

Use the GeoMapper to determine all SAR incidents that have occurred in the last 2 months within 5 NM of a particular beacon. Then display the selected SAR incidents on a map or chart, and include it in a Word document as an image ('picture'). Or use the GeoMapper to display all the incidents in a table, and/or export and email to other interested parties. Or export the selected incidents into Excel and use the data in a bar chart or graph (for example, different bars for incidents occurring within 5 NM, 10 NM, and 15 NM).

Update vessel positions

Use the GeoMapper to determine the Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) of a particular vessel. The GeoMapper determines the distance between certain places on a map, and then based on user input of the vessel speed, calculates an approximate ETA.

Use the GeoMapper to display a map of current vessel positions in a particular harbour with updates every 15 minutes. The vessels can be classified according to type, with labels describing the vessel name or company.

Marine Aids Program Review Analytical Tool MAPRAT

The MAPRAT extension to the GeoMapper was completed in October, 1998. The Marine Aids Program is responsible for the review of aids to navigation systems to ensure the provision of equitable, save and cost effective marine transportation. MAPRAT was developed to improve the efficiency of the marine aids review process.

With MAPRAT, Marine Aids Level of Service Review staff can:

  • View and query existing aids from the SIPA (Aids Program Information System) database.
  • Add and remove aids from an aids system to analyze alternate scenarios.
  • Display visual ranges, luminous ranges and nominal ranges around the aids in a system under various visibility and background lighting conditions.
  • Display perception requirements for aids for different vessel categories and types of approach.
  • Display vessel routes in conjunction with existing and proposed aids.
  • Edit waypoints along a route.
  • Store Pilot Note and Fixing Point information for route waypoints.
  • Determine whether a vessel perception route may intersect hazards or shallow water, taking into account the vessel's dead reckoning error.

MAPRAT Glossary

Visual range:
the maximum distance at which contrast of the object against its background is reduced by the atmosphere to the contrast threshold of the observer. The term visual range is used instead of luminous range in daytime viewing. The value for visual range for each aid is contained in the SIPA database.
Luminous range:
the maximum distance at which a given signal light can be seen by the eye of the observer at a given time, as determined by the intensity of the meteorological visibility prevailing at that time. Visibility, background lighting and the intensity of the aid optic determine luminous range. Optic intensity for each aid is found in a field in the SIPA database. The other values would be input by the user each time the function is performed.
Nominal range:
the luminous range when the meteorological visibility is 10 sea miles, equivalent to a transmission factor of T = 0.74. Optic intensity for each aid is found in the SIPA database, visibility is set to 10 nmi and background lighting would be entered by the user each time the function is performed.
Perception Requirement:
The minimum distance at which a visual aid must be seen, and aural aid heard or a transmitted or reflected radar signal received. It is expressed as P, the radius of a circle whose centre is at the aid itself and is calculated using the equation:

Perception Requirement = Danger Area + Safety Margin + Radial Error

Danger Area is the distance from the aid to the nearest hazard. This would be identified by the user through visual inspection of a raster hydrographic chart and clicking on the nearest hazard. MAPRAT would calculate the distance. Safety margin and radial error would be input as numbers by the user.
Vessel Route:
Lines that indicate the route a vessel takes through a waterway. Each vessel track should have the following attributes: name of vessel; from location; to location; user vessel category; bearing and length of each leg (line segment) and a memo field for user notes.
Application Tracking System

The Application Tracking System, completed in July of 1998, was designed as an extension to the GeoMapper for use by the Navigable Waters Protection Division (NWPD). Any work undertaken in a navigable waterway must receive Coast Guard approval prior to its construction. Using information stored in the Navigable Waters Database System (NWDS), the locations of applications for works can be displayed on top of hydrographic charts, topographic maps and orthophotos, where available.

With ATS, NWPD staff can:

  • Locate an application by typing in a Navigable Waters Database System file number.
  • Centre the map display screen on a latitude/longitude coordinate or place name.
  • Plan trips by displaying all the applications that require a site inspection in a given area.
  • Label application points and print out maps for inclusion in reports.
  • Reposition an existing application that is displayed in an incorrect location (due to incorrect latitude/longitude values in the database).
  • Update the NWDS database with correct latitude/longitude locations of applications.

The ChartViewer was developed in November of 1998. It is a modified version of the GeoMapper specifically coded to facilitate the needs of the Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) staff.

With the ChartViewer, MCTS staff can:

  • Display nautical charts. Currently charts all along the Pacific coast, including Alaska, are available for viewing.
  • Locate unknown places. A gazetteer is built into the ChartViewer, allowing you to find unknown locations.
  • Find a latitude/longitude position.
  • Find the location of a particular buoy or beacon.
  • Perform range and bearing calculations.