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‘Halifax Harbour Pilotage, Then and Now’ – A special presentation at the Friends of McNabs Island Society’s Annual Meeting Monday, April 8 2024

HALIFAX--The marine pilot profession has evolved greatly since the early days of sailing ships in Halifax Harbour.
Piloting has become regulated and certified, and its pilots now undergo apprenticeships with rigorous training and qualifications.

Captain Gary O’Donnell will give a historical overview of marine piloting in Halifax Harbour at the
society’s 34 th Annual General Meeting on Monday, April 8 th . The meeting will be held at the Nova
Scotia Museum of Natural History, 1748 Summer Street in Halifax. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the
meeting starting at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Museum. All are welcome.

“The main responsibility we have as pilots today is to ensure the safety of the public for marine
shipping in and out of our harbour,” says Capt. O’Donnell, a graduate of the Canadian Coast Guard
College and a veteran of more than 10 trips in the polar waters of Canada’s North.

Capt. O’Donnell, a retired master mariner whose decades-long career includes more than 20 years of
piloting vessels in Halifax Harbour, will outline key events in piloting history. His talk will describe
measures aimed at safeguarding navigation for ship traffic in Halifax Harbour. He will discuss the
history of his field, illustrated with a few archival photographs. The pictures show how piloting has
modernized itself from a time when schooner-based pilots used rowboats to board incoming vessels.
Most recently employed by the Atlantic Pilotage Authority, Capt. O’Donnell says the local pilotage
system has been “incident-free” for 99.9 per cent of vessels. The impressive safety record, he adds, has
been sustained even with the increasing number of larger-sized vessels.

Halifax has a naturally deep, wide, ice-free harbour with minimal tides. The harbour was called
Kjipuktuk by the Mi’kmaq. They were the original inhabitants of the land and the first navigators of the
seaway and the connecting river waterways. Halifax is one of a few eastern seaboard ports able to
accommodate the very largest container ships. Annually, the port handles over 1,500 vessels, ranking it
among Canada's top four ports by container volume.

It was the 1917 Halifax Explosion that, over time, brought system-wide piloting changes. The disaster
of December 6 was caused by the collision of the munitions ship, Mont Blanc, and the relief supplies
ship, Imo. It devastated the north end of the city, killed almost 2,000 residents and left 9,000 more
maimed or blinded.

The tragedy also created controversy, still debated and disputed, of the role of pilot Frances Mackey.
Until the collision, Mackey had a spotless twenty-four-year service record as a harbour pilot. But after
the collision, Mackey was vilified in press coverage and arguably made the scapegoat in court
proceedings.

Capt. O’Donnell offers his professional perspective. “Seven years ago, we observed the 100 th
anniversary of the Halifax Explosion and the role the pilots played and endured after this terrible
occurrence. It could be said that this event was a defining moment on the role of how pilotage evolved
and changed, not only in Halifax, but across the country.”

Although there had been changes in the industry before the explosion, more substantial changes ever
since are transforming the industry. Among the significant milestones was the 1968 Royal Commission
on Pilotage. This resulted in the Pilotage Act and the 1972 establishment of the Atlantic Pilotage
Authority.

Nowadays, Capt. O’Donnell explains, becoming a fully licensed pilot only takes place after a rigorous
program. Newly hired apprentice pilots undergo three years of training, completing hundreds of
assignments under the supervision of a senior pilot.

While candidates tend to be younger, in their mid-30s, they also have a sophisticated level of expertise,
Capt. O’Donnell says. Education for pilots places a high priority on an intimate knowledge of local
waters, and specialized training on the most up-to-date ship equipment and simulation facilities.

O’Donnell himself has a Class A piloting license that qualifies him to pilot vessels of any size, and any
tonnage, in and out of Halifax Harbour. He says: “Pilot apprentices bring with them a more technically
oriented background. Many of them were previously employed in highly technical backgrounds, for
example the oil patch, or the chemical and product carrier industry.”

Friends of McNabs Island Society – Rewarding Finds include Money, a Silver Spoon plus Tires and Lobster Traps at our Annual Beach Cleanup

(June 26, 2023) On June 25, 130 volunteers headed to McNabs Island in Halifax Harbour to clean up garbage at our rescheduled beach cleanup – cancelled earlier this month due to the park closure.
Volunteers collected approximately 250 bags of garbage, 10 broken lobster traps, a dozen tires, a $10 and $20 bill, an antique silver spoon and an odd assortment of junk.

In total, volunteers have collected 16,750 bags of garbage and recyclables from the beaches of McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park and Fort McNab National Historic Site over the past 33 years. This cleanup is the longest-running and largest cleanup in the Maritimes!

Ghost Gear Marine Fisheries Debris continues to be a significant part of the garbage collected from the beaches, though the number of lobster traps collected this year was down. Lobster bands, tags and bait bags, broken fish crates, and lobster traps as well as Styrofoam of varying sizes, and a dozen tires were hauled off the beaches.

Unusual items found on the beaches included a weathered $10 and $20 bill. The plastic coating on the bills had worn off adding more micro-plastics to the ocean. Various items of clothing including dresses, underwear, hats and shoes were also found.

The bulk of the items collected continue to be plastics which deteriorate into micro-plastics over time but stay in the environment for centuries. Plastic tampon applicators from the sewage system and Tim Horton’s coffee cups continue to litter the beaches.

Thanks to teams from McInnes Cooper, CBCL, Butterfield Support Services, Halifax and Hammonds Plains Pathfinders, the Alnass Community Association and many individuals and families who volunteered to pick up garbage that littered the island park. Support for the cleanup this year came from Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Ghost Gear Fund.

The Friends of McNabs Island Society is a volunteer-driven registered charity dedicated to preserving and protecting McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park and Fort McNab National Historic Site. Since 1990, the Friends of McNabs have improved the trails and park facilities, organized community beach cleanups, offered guided tours to island visitors and this year opened an Outdoor Education Centre on the island – making McNabs Island a welcoming park for everyone.

Friends of McNabs Island Society – World Environment Day Cleanup brings in Mainsail, and more Tires and Lobster Traps!

MEDIA RELEASE (FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE)
(June 5, 2022) Today on World Environment Day, 130 volunteers travelled to the McNabs Island in Halifax Harbour to clean up garbage that has washed ashore since last fall’s beach cleanup. Volunteers collected approximately 400 bags of garbage including a

In total, volunteers have collected 16,500 bags of garbage and recyclables from the beaches of this Provincial Park and national historic site over the past 32 years. The McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park cleanup is the longest-running and largest cleanup in the Maritimes!

Ghost Gear Marine Debris continues to be a large part of the garbage collected from the beaches. More giant-sized rope was found, motor oil containers, lobster bands and tags, fish crates and lobster traps, Styrofoam of varying sizes, and dozens of oversized tires were hauled off the beaches of the island park. This year there as an odd assortment of personal items and toys – a bedroom slipper, an orthopedic shoe and a bra, plus toy soldiers, a miniature doll’s boot, and a fuzzy koala. And there is a sailboat out there somewhere without its mainsail.

The bulk of the items collected are plastics which deteriorate into micro-plastics over time but stay in the environment for centuries. Plastic tampon applicators from the sewage system and Tim Horton’s coffee cups continue to litter the beaches.

Thanks to teams from McInnes Cooper, Scotian Shores, the 339 Iroquois Sea Cadets, the Alnass Community Association and many individuals and families who volunteered to pick up garbage that littered the park. Support for the cleanup came from McInnes Cooper, Develop Nova Scotia, HRM, Source Atlantic, A&M Sea Charters, Ambassatours, Taylor Made Tours and the Port of Halifax.

The Friends of McNabs Island Society is a volunteer-driven registered charity dedicated to preserving and protecting McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park and Fort McNab National Historic Site. Since 1990, the Friends of McNabs have improved the trails and park facilities, organized community beach cleanups and offered guided tours to island visitors – making McNabs Island a welcoming park for everyone.

FOR MEDIA INQUIRES, CONTACT:
Catherine McCarthy
Friends of McNabs Island Society – email: info@mcnabsisland.ca – cell: 902-456-9167
https://mcnabsisland.ca/

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2021 MEDIA RELEASE - Lawlor Island Cleanup

(October 3rd, 2021)
Friends of McNabs Island Society – Lawlor Island cleanup brings in gill fishing net, a port-a-potty, and more Lobster Traps!

On Sunday, 50 volunteers paddled or ferried to Lawlor Island in Halifax Harbour to clean up the beaches. Lawlor Island is a 50 hectare island directly across from MacCormacks Beach in Eastern Passage and is part of McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park. The island is an environmental protection zone and has no public access.

Volunteers spent the day digging out tires and collected approximately 300 bags of garbage including 20 lobster traps, a large gill fishing net, lots of fishing rope and a port-a-potty.

Two weeks ago volunteers collected 800 bags or 5 tonnes of garbage from McNabs Island. The Lawlor cleanup adds to this amount. Over the past 30 years, more than 16,000 bags of garbage and recyclables have been collected from the beaches of the island park. The McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park cleanup is the longest-running and largest cleanup in the Maritimes!

About 20 kilograms of gill net fishing gear was untangled from the trees and rocks along the shoreline. This plastic Ghost Gear Marine Debris doesn’t break down and entangles marine animals and wildlife. Other marine debris collected included motor oil containers, lobster bands, bait bags, trap tags, fish crates and 20 lobster traps. Large and small pieces of Styrofoam and dozens of tires were hauled off the beaches of the island park. Interesting items discovered at this cleanup include a port-a-potty, a VHS tape, a broken drone and a miniature boxing glove.

Thanks to the many volunteers from the Friends of McNabs Island and Scotian Shores who picked up garbage that littered the island park. Support for the cleanups came from Develop Nova Scotia, McInnes Cooper, HRM, Nova Scotia Natural Resources, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The Friends of McNabs Island Society is a volunteer-driven registered charity dedicated to preserving and protecting McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park and Fort McNab National Historic Site. Since 1990, the Friends of McNabs have improved the trails and park facilities, organized community beach cleanups and offered guided tours to island visitors – making McNabs Island a welcoming park for everyone.