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.

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