Research Summary - Medical Requirements

  • As part of the Pilotage Act Review

Dr. K. Corbet

November 2017

As part of the Oceans Protection Plan announced in 2016, the Government of Canada committed to a review of the Pilotage Act to support the delivery of safe, efficient and environmentally responsible marine pilotage services.  To assess one element of operational safety, a comparative review of the medical fitness standards for seafarers and pilots was requested by Transport Canada Marine Personnel Standards and Pilotage.

The objectives of this report are:

  • Describe and compare the medical standards for the assessment of medical fitness of seafarers in Norway, United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada and the International Labour Organization/International Maritime Organization Guidelines on the medical examinations of seafarers
  • List and compare the medical conditions included in these national medical standards
  • Describe and compare how the four regional Pilotage Authorities in Canada assess the medical fitness of their pilots
  • Propose options for how Transport Canada and the Pilotage Authorities can move towards ‘best practice’ for the medical fitness assessment of Canadian marine pilots

Based on a documentary review of international standards and interviews with each of the Canadian Pilotage Authorities, the key findings and issues were:

  • The process for assessing the medical fitness of pilots varies widely among the Canadian Pilotage Authorities
  • The current system for the assessment of medical fitness is not specific for marine pilots – seafarer medical examinations do not fully meet the needs of the Authorities
  • The current system is prone to errors, failures, and delays.

Key recommendations are:

  1. Develop and implement a description of the pilots’ job demands and working conditions for each Authority, taking into account local operating conditions
  2. Prepare a ‘plain language’ summary of the legal duties pilots and treating physicians have to report medical conditions and medications that are ‘likely to constitute a hazard to marine safety’; enable the effective communication of medical and fitness information among persons and parties with a ‘need to know’
  3. Undertake a job demands analysis of pilot positions in each Authority, with consideration of local working conditions
  4. Develop a standard list of phrases that describe work limitations/restrictions specific for marine pilots, and ensure that all physicians examining pilots refer to them when applying restrictions
  5. Compile, and make available on-line, selected content from the international guidelines, searchable by medical condition.
  6. Review the continuing education of Marine Medical Examiners, in light of current educational standards for the continuing professional development of physicians; develop a long-term educational strategy for physicians who assess the medical fitness of pilots and seafarers.
  7. Review the current marine medical examination protocol and look for ways to improve the relevancy, validity, and reliability of the assessment
  8. Implement a quality assurance program for the Pilotage Authorities in accordance with an internationally recognized standard
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