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Pierre Vallee - Trois Rivieres, Quebec, Canada - French (Global Lives Project, 2013) - Life Story Part 5

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I have no direct links to the ship's owner. When I make a decision, it is purely focused on safety. I do not have to consider the commercial imperative of my decision, because I am not associated with the ship's owner. There is always help from the Pilotage Authority, which as I said, is a Crown Corporation of the Government, so the Government always comes between me and the ship's owner. So, when I make a decision, it is a decision to protect security. So even if there are commercial consequences as a result of my decision, I do not have to suffer the consequences. However, in some areas, there is a com... a competitive aspect, perhaps between colleagues, about some minor issue or other. They give each other scores, to add a competitive element, and to know who has the best brands, and who does the best maneuvers. There is some rivalry between colleagues, but not at the base about wages or conditions. It is a regulated setting- very, very, very regulated, and you cannot ignore that. So would you say that as well as being regulated, you are in a supportive environment? You mentioned the Guild earlier, but do you know if there is an association or even social events where you can build relationships? Oh yes, there is a Canadian Maritime Pilots' Association. Each of... each of these groups of pilots is represented by their PMC, and so there is a meeting once every three years for all Canadian pilots, but if we ask the Board of Directors of the other governing bodies, we meet twice a year, in their PMCs in order to exchange news and information, statistics, and issues in negotiations with our fellow pilots in other parts of Canada. And once every two years, on a global level, there is the Impol International Maritime Pilot Association, which is a worldwide network of marine pilots. Last fall, I went to the event which took place in London, and I will also be going to the next one, which will take place in Panama in 2014. So yes, there are events, both in Canada and worldwide, for pilots. There are also several websites which allow us to keep in touch, as well as maritime news sites which enable us to keep up to date with gossip. Is there a solidarity that is felt during a negotiation, for example? — Yes, and during the last round of negotiations I was really in the... in the... in the thick of it. For us, the... the President and the two Vice Presidents are our negotiating team, and the two Deputies of our Board of Directors, which consists of five people: a President, two Vice Presidents, one from each sector, and two Deputies. The negotiations are prepared by the whole governing body, but the negotiating group which will negotiate at the table consists of the President and the two Vice Presidents, and I was one of the two Vice Presidents. I was very involved in the last round of negotiations, and it went quite well, as we now have a new three-year contract. — Do you also build relationships with your ship captains, and do they invite you to their countries? No, that has not happened to me. I have had... One rarely uses the same boat twice in succession, although some boats come in on a regular basis, for example once a month, or once every three weeks. The container shipping services are the most regular services, especially between Europe and Montreal. So there, one can expect to meet the same captains many times, but I have colleagues who have built stronger relationships with certain captains- they have been to visit them, and the captains have returned the visit; but for me personally, that has not happened. I do not have any particular links with any of my captains. However, I do have a good relationship with a crew member, whom I met purely by chance on a Canadian boat a few years ago. This person was a helmsman. That means that on a ship, there are helmsmen, or wheelmen- in other words, lower-ranking members of the crew, whose job it is to steer the boat. When I am on board, I never take the wheel in my hands. I just give the co-ordinates that the ship must follow. So, there is someone who is responsible for turning the rudder to the correct angle, so that the ship will turn sufficiently and in time- but not too much, or else it will turn too much. This person is called a helmsman or wheelman. So, this one time on a boat, we had to anchor, because we did not have a good tide. I started talking to the guy, and we found that we had many things in common, and so we became very very good friends. That is the best... the best relationship that I have ever built with a crew member. On the other hand, I have friends who used to sail as officers, and then later became captains, and who are still good friends of mine. Are you involved in your professional community beyond what has already been discussed? No, I think that on a professional level, the... the corporation brings together 110 pilots, but at the base, we are 110 individual people. If we sailed alone for 10, 12, or 15 years, it would be because we had the personality that made sure that we were capable of being away from our families, far away from our wives and our children, for quite a long time. At the base, we are quite individual. The corporation groups us all together, however there is no... no... not, for example, a pilots' social club. We have one reception a year, which... a reception which reunites the pilots and their spouses, once a year, but no I am not involved in a professional body, apart from being a member of the Board of Directors, of which I have twice been a member in recent years. On a social level, I am Vice Presidet of the Maison des Marins de Trois-Rivières, which is a non-profit organization that provides services to foreign sailors who visit the Port of Trois-Rivières and need support, be it help contacting their families, or clothing because they are not dressed correctly for the severe winter conditions, or if they need transport to go to the mall. There are "Seamen's Clubs", or seafarers' clubs, in a number of ports. I am involved in the one at Trois-Rivières. Do you have any other sources of income apart from this one? Yes, I have another source of income. I have properties for rental in apartment blocks. I rent them out, so that is another form... another form of income. — How many properties do you own? 3 other properties, apart from my house. Outside work, what are your hobbies and your interests? I like... I like to spend time here in the chalet in Champlain. In fact, here in Champlain, we go four-wheeling with the kids. I also like to go jet-skiing. I go motorcycling. I have a motorbike, which is a road motorbike. Motorcycling is one of my favorite hobbies. I renovate as well. I buy... I buy houses, I renovate them, and I sell them, I like that. It takes up quite a lot of my time. When I am involved in a Board of Directors meeting, either on a corporate level or as a member, I have a little less time to put my energy into property renovation, but when I am not a member of the Board, I like to do that. My other hobbies... That's it, I think. — In conclusion, do you have a recruitment message for future pilots? — Well, I... if you asked me if I would like my sons to do this job, the answer would be 'yes'. It's roughly the same for all young people who are trying to find a job for the future. It's quite hard, at 16, to choose a job that you are going to do until you are 65. You have to work for 50 years, but this job creates diversity, which... which, in a way, is motivating as it can stimulate you- possibly for the rest of your career. Are you planning your future career? No, sorry, that is not the question- I have written that very badly. We're going to do some clairvoyance here. The question is, how do you see the future of your profession? What do you predict? One can say that there may be a time when we just have to look at a computer and it will perform. Will that really happen in the distant future? And what about in the near future, or in the next few years, or during the rest of your career? Again, in 20 years' time, can I expect such an evolution? And even further into the future, what do you think it could be like? Well- — Can you see anything? In the future, navigational techniques will have changed because for many years, we have had access to new technologies. Radars have changed greatly in the space of 30 to 40 years- maybe even 50 years. Finally, this is the advent of the electronic card with very precise GPS positioning, even the most precise GPS positioning possible. This will lead to new opportunities. We will be able to have bigger boats because we will have elements, equipment that can position the boat accurately. I think that in the future, it will still have... ... these technologies will be even further refined. I think that electronic card systems will also be further refined to facilitate border crossings for the boats. This is not something that has changed much over time, and I don't see it changing much in the coming years, either. I think that we will always need pilots on board the ships, present on the ships. Although some organizations think that they should do... what is known as "short-pilotage", and have one pilot in a control office on-shore, who can control everything that happens to the ships. I really do not think that that will happen. The physical presence of one of two pilots is needed on board the boat. I think that, even when looking into a crystal ball to see 40 or 50 years into the future, I think that there will always be maritime pilots physically present on board the ships. Techniques will continue to refine as they have done for many years, but at the base, the business will remain the same. — And why are you so convinced that there will always be a pilot on board a ship? What is the ... why do you think that? The ... workforce of vessels and the navigation of boats requires a direct presence. It's too long before we see the impact, for example, of the computer on a dashboard giving orders. If you are not on board to see the instantaneous drift which has which may be on the boat. I am convinced that even with the best positioning systems, we will be able to achieve the degree of accuracy with a pilot on board the boat. For that question, we were talking about the future, But now, I will go into the past. — OK. So, if you could be tele-transported into the past, is there a period in maritime history in which you would have liked to have been present as a captain or pilot? If so, which period and why? For example, there were Dutch companies who went on great expeditions, Spanish, Portuguese, Scandinavians. — There were the Vikings, I don't know. — Yeah, but ... It is a ... I I will improvise. I am trying to ask imaginative questions. Imaginative? Yes, that's it. I do not quite understand. For example...? Let us rephrase the question- is there a period that fascinates you, which has to do with sailing? We could put the question another way. A period ... There is a... you know the great history of the Dutch company, right? That's great... there were explorations of the world, they did not know where they were going... — I do not... No, I would not have liked to have been there. There was too much insecurity. People went on adventures, but I'm not the type of person to go and "Hope for the best." My choice is well-calculated. I ... I ... Part of me would have loved to have been involved. But being in that business, there is too much uncertainty. As I said, I was talking to a colleague last week and I said that I would be tempted to go into business. I have done that through my real estate purchases, but say, I lose all and and I go into business full-time. I am too insecure for that. However, I say the ... of of all the business people of whom we speak and who we admire, there are many who at some point, ... when you read their biographies, they say, "At one point I made a make or break decision". We read their life stories today because they succeeded. We do not talk about those who have failed. They live in a 5 and a half room flat on the second floor with their three children. That is where I develop my small company in real estate, but ensuring the stability of my job. I would not like to go back to the time of the Vikings and keep going on expeditions like that. I would not have... I would not be quite... For example, my son, Joaquin, is a little guy who can make decisions on the spot. He rushes into things. That's how Evelyn, my wife, puts it. Today it is not so good- people like him cannot evolve as much in society, because they must be more compliant. But in Indian tribes they killed buffalo to eat. They did not have to rack their brains about that. Someone said in the past, "We catch it, we kill it, and we eat it." He did not think, "What if the buffalo attacks me?" I am that kind of person. To go on an adventure... Do I hope that things will go well? No, that would not have happened to me... I am happy living in my own period, because the techniques have been tested by others. I am capable of refining them, but I do not know if I would have been capable of inventing or defining them. Thank you very much. — Great answer.

Video Details

Duration: 19 minutes and 24 seconds
Year: 2013
Country: Canada
Language: French (Canada)
Producer: Karen Vanderborght
Views: 92
Posted by: globallives on Sep 30, 2013

This is part of a 24-hour recording of a day in the life of Pierre Valee, who works as a commercial ship pilot boat pilot on the St. Lawrence River in Canada.

This video was produced by Karen Vanderborght, David Fabrega, Marie Dietlin, Rafi Leeuwenkroon, Marianne Ploska, and Catherine Genest.

This video is part of the Global Lives Project, a video library of life experience.
For more information please visit

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