The lock keepers have been around since the canal was first built and they are iconic to the waterway. They are in charge of one or more mechanically operated locks and also some other specific engineering structures. They ensure the safety of users and for navigation. They assist with opening and closing the lock gates and organise the passing of boats through the locks. During the peak season, there are around fifty lock keepers between Castelnaudary and Agde.
They are also responsible for managing the water levels in the canal pounds and for maintaining the structures by greasing mechanical devices or removing any logjams for example. The lock keepers usually live in the lock keeper's houses and so also make sure the surrounding area of these houses is maintained. Some locks are automatic (it is up to the skippers to operate the lock themselves) in the quieter sections of the canal.
These highly qualified metalwork specialists are essential when it comes to maintaining the many locks that are key for navigation.
In the locks, the water pressure, opening and closing of gates and sluices, impacts from the boats all really put the structure to the test. This is why the gates have been replaced every 50 years approximately since the canal was created! Metal workers are also responsible for the rack and pinions that operate the sluices and open the lock gates, as well as making walkways for locks, control panels and the bases for mounting lights or cameras.
They also work on the special engineering structures, such as the repair work on the Libron.
These people intervene when specific expertise is required. They have skills in multiple fields such as electricity, hydraulics, automation and mechanics.
They play a part in ensuring equipment lasts as long as possible, because the locks are equipped with new technology which makes the facilities more reliable, and ensures the safety of users.
The maintenance teams ensure the canal remains in good working order throughout the year (repair work to the structure, maintenance of the banks, etc.).
The dredging teams remove mud and alluvium that has accumulated in the canal pounds. Any more significant work is carried out when the canal is closed to navigation during winter.
Dam wardens are in charge of managing the Lampy and Saint-Ferréol dams. Every day, they inspect the dam monitoring devices. They check the water levels and adjust water inlets and outlets at the dams wherever necessary. During periods of heavy rainfall and when there is a risk of flash flooding, they carry out verifications around the clock to make sure as much water is stored in the dam as possible, to limit the impact of the rainfall.
There is a whole host of other professions within Voies Navigables de France, concerned with the management of water resources, for monitoring the implementation of environmental measures, for the management of trees and areas of greenery, to support territorial development alongside local authorities, to showcase heritage and cultural initiatives, and much more.
Boaters might cross paths with the harbourmaster. This person allocates the annual berths, manages places and rotations, and ensures everyone's safety. They also monitor the environmental quality of the site. With the increasing popularity of recreational boating, this person is key in welcoming tourists to a stopover port. At the port there are also cruise operators and boat hire companies for boats with or without a permit.
In the surrounding area of the Canal du Midi, there is a great number of tourism professionals and services. Restaurant and cafés, accommodation and hotels inside reconverted lock keeper's houses or at the various stopover ports, all play a part in the canal experience on offer and its image.
The staff at the tourist offices, museums and other venues open to the public (Port-Lauragais, Saint-Ferréol, etc.) and tour guides all contribute in helping visitors find out about the canal's history and in showcasing its extraordinary heritage. Personnel from local authorities working in the various developments also have a role in showcasing the site.
Other symbolic people for the canal are the bargemen who drive the boats.
Since freight came to a halt (1989) on the Canal du Midi, the bargemen have been responsible for taking tourists for trips on the cruise boats or houseboats.
There are also many boat rental companies, for boats with or without a permit, along the banks of the canal. The canal transport tradition also extends to dry land, at the shipyards (or dry docks) at some of the waterway ports. Passionate craftspeople work there such as marine carpenters who make or repair the boats, metal workers specialised in boats, etc.