June 2, 2022 | Circular No. 11443

Dear Member,

With no consultation or advance notice, the Canadian pilots in the Welland Canal unilaterally began demanding that all large vessels be ballasted down to 5.0m forward and 7.0m aft. The GLPA did not sanction these new measures and have been working on a resolution with their pilots. The Federation objected to these unilateral measures which were imposed without consultation, notice, or without any sound justification or adequate demonstration of the actual issue. The GLPA and SLSMC met recently to discuss a resolution to improving the minimum draft requirements for ships in “ballast condition for vessels longer than 185m in the Welland Canal and developed the below plan.

The SLSMC and the GLPA acnkowledge that the weather conditions in the Niagara region can change in a relatively short period of time. This potentially can affect the safe conduct of certain ships and may also result in them stopping before entering the Welland Canal or possibly during transit according to their wind restrictions.

The SLSMC agreed that ships in a ballasted condition over 185 m, transiting the Welland Canal should have at all times a sufficient draft to improve their manoeuvring characteristics and to mitigate the risk of being stopped. To reach that goal, the SLSMC and the GLPA agreed on the following protocol:


  • Will now request that ships in ballast condition over 185 m and transiting the Welland Canal:
  • To have the following ballast tanks to be filled up to 95% of their capacity:
    • bottom ballast tanks,
    • side ballast tanks and
    • topside ballast tanks,
  • To have a positive trim of at least 0.5 m at all times.
  • To be provided with a list of the vessels and what their drafts will be when ballasted to 95% capacity of the aforementioned tanks.


  • Will reach out to Federation members to validate the operational drafts of their ships when in ballast according to the above requirements. This ballast draft will take into account the ship’s normal “Great Lakes” fuel capacity.
  • The above information will then be provided to the SLSMC inspectors for them to verify that the above-mentioned ships will be meeting those conditions when transiting the Welland Canal.
  • Will have a mechanism in place by where there will be an alert notifying Seaway dispatchers, supervisors and inspectors that a vessel is arriving to transit the canal but has drafts less than what was listed when at 95% capacity. (Perhaps a similar mechanism that alerts Seaway personnel if a vessel needs to be listed for particular bascule bridges or the air draft exceeds that of the lift bridges)

Please direct any comments or questions regarding this new protocol to the undersigned.


Chad Allen

Director, Marine Operations