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Dan Walters: Ship pilots, shippers take their money fight to Capitol: AB 907

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  • Pacific Merchant Marine Council
    Dan Walters: Ship pilots, shippers take their money fight to Capitol By Dan Walters dwalters@sacbee.comThe Sacramento Bee Published: Monday, Jun. 13, 2011 -
    Message 1 of 4 , Jun 14, 2011

      Dan Walters: Ship pilots, shippers take their money fight to Capitol

      By Dan Walters
      dwalters@...
       
       
      Published: Monday, Jun. 13, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
      Last Modified: Monday, Jun. 13, 2011 - 11:32 am
       
      We may assume that the California Legislature spends its time – our time, actually – on weighty matters such as the budget, or education, or chronic water shortages.
      In fact, however, lawmakers devote most of their time to thousands of specific matters that sometimes involve culture or ideology, but mostly money – taking it from somebody and giving it to somebody else.
      Sometimes it's official money – taxes and budgets – but it's often off-the-books, such as giving some interest group a tax break or a lucrative monopoly.
      An absurd example is the Legislature's minute control over which medical practitioner can perform which invasive procedure on which part of the human body.
      One of legislators' more obscure powers is setting rates on oceangoing ships for the services of harbor pilots in San Francisco Bay and inland ports (but not Southern California ports).
      Historically, shippers and the San Francisco Bar Pilots, a private group of the few dozen pilots licensed to steer ships in and out of port, have periodically negotiated new rates, then obtained approval of the San Francisco Board of Pilot Commissioners, an uber- obscure state agency, and the Legislature's ratification.
      But this year, the pilots and the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association are waging war over a proposal to boost pilotage rates, now about $50 million a year, and thus increase the pilots' earnings.
      Both factions already have weighty political presences via lobbyists and campaign contributions, but are muscling up more as the pilots push legislation by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, to boost pilotage rates.
      The two clashed over the issue for months before the commission.
      The shipping companies sought a rate decrease that they said would make themselves more competitive, arguing that due to increasing shipping, the pilots' incomes would still increase. The pilots, however, sought a rate boost, arguing that costs of operating the small boats that transport them to ships had increased sharply.
      Ultimately, the board approved a 1.5 percent increase, plus some other adjustments, that is written into Assembly Bill 907.
      Major business groups are backing the shippers, who contend that the bill would raise pilots' incomes from about $400,000 a year to more than $500,000. "How much is enough for the San Francisco Bay harbor pilot monopoly?" reads one paper distributed in the Capitol.
      "They do get paid a lot, but that's because it's commensurate with the job they do," says Ma, a sentiment that the pilots' president, Bruce Horton, echoes.
      Horton says, "Our expenses have increased exponentially." He denounces shippers' claims about pilots' incomes as "absolutely untrue" and contends that with the rate boost, they wouldn't reach $400,000 until 2015.
      It's legislative business as usual, deciding who gets what from whom.
      Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/06/13/3695560/dan-walters-ship-pilots-shippers.html#ixzz1PHTIdNCN
       

       
      Board of Pilot Commissioners for the Bays of San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun
      Established in 1850; oversees 60 San Francisco Bar Pilots and an inland pilot. Seven members including RAdm. Frank X. Johnson, USMM, (Ret.), the Board's Vice President. 
      http://www.bopc.ca.gov  
       
      Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PSMA)
      PMSA is an independent, not-for-profit shipping association based in San Francisco, Long Beach and Seattle. PMSA represents owners and operators of marine terminals and US and foreign vessels operating in the Pacific Basin. Check out the membership.
      http://www.pmsaship.com

      PMSA News

      6/13 - Ship pilots, shippers take their money fight to Capitol

      6/12/11 - Pay Dispute Splits Bay's Shippers and Bar Pilots

      6/5/11 - The Foreign-Flag Diversion and Who Really Pays the Freight

      5/4/11 - State Pilot Commission Recommends Pay Increase For Harbor Pilots Already Making $400,000 Per Year

      San Francisco Bar Pilots Association (SFBPA)
      For more than a century and a half, the San Francisco Bar Pilots have ensured the safe and efficient movement of the largest vessels that traverse the San Francisco Bay, adjacent bays and tributaries, and Monterey Bay. Sixty pilots are members of the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association. Also known as San Francisco Bar Pilots Benevolent And Protective Association.
      http://www.sfbarpilots.com
       
      Pilot Commission Recommends Rate Increase for San Francisco Bar Pilots
      1.5% Mill Rate Increase per Year through 2015 to Cover Rise in Pilotage Costs
      San Francisco, California (May 5, 2011) – The state Board of Pilot Commissioners has recommended to state lawmakers a modest mill rate increase for the San Francisco Bar Pilots and surcharges for fuel and additional pilot costs.
      The Commission voted 5-1 to approve the mill rate increase on May 2 and members voting in favor included a representative from the shipping industry. Commissioners voted 6-0 to approve the fuel surcharge. The Commission’s findings now go to California legislators for their consideration.

      “We thank the Commission for recognizing that while our rates have remained unchanged for the past five years, our costs have gone up,” said Captain Bruce Horton, Port Agent and President of the San Francisco Bar Pilots. “San Francisco bar pilots navigate some of the most difficult pilotage grounds in the world. These rate increases will help us maintain a 24/7 presence outside the Golden Gate and ensure the safe and reliable flow of shipping traffic into and out of Northern California waterways.”

      The action taken by the Commission recommends to the state a fuel surcharge to be paid by shippers starting in 2012, charges for when additional pilots are needed for safety considerations under the state Harbors and Navigation Code and an increase in the mill rate used to calculate the costs of moving specific vessels into and out of the Golden Gate.
      In particular, the Commission concluded that costs for the San Francisco Bar Pilots have “increased at a steady rate since the last rate adjustment and can be expected to continue on that trend into the future.”
       

      AB 907 (Ma): Harbors and ports: Monterey Bay and the Bays of San ...

      california legislation > AB 907 · AB 907 (Ma) Harbors and ports: Monterey ...

       
      Existing law provides for the regulation and licensing of pilots for Monterey Bay and the Bays of San Francisco, San Pablo, and Suisun by the Board of Pilot Commissioners for the Bays of San Francisco, San Pablo, and Suisun. Existing law specifies the rates of bar pilotage for vessels inward or outward bound through the Golden Gate and into or out of the Bays of San Francisco, San Pablo, and Suisun.

      This bill would increase those rates, with additional increases effective January 1, 2013, January 1, 2014, and January 1, 2015. This bill also would delete obsolete rate increases in those provisions. The bill would establish a fuel surcharge for each movement of a vessel using pilot services which would be determined by the board’s executive director according to specified criteria.

      Existing law requires the board to adopt a schedule of pilotage rates applicable to pilots and inland pilots for those operations that are not otherwise provided for under existing law. Existing law also requires the board to establish a surcharge for each movement of a vessel using pilot services to be used for the pilot and inland pilot continuing education program established by the board.

      This bill would make those provisions inapplicable to inland pilots. This bill would provide that the board’s schedule of pilotage rates for those operations not otherwise provided for under existing law shall be increased pursuant to the board’s findings and recommendations to the Legislature dated May 25, 2011, with additional increases effective January 1, 2013, January 1, 2014, and January 1, 2015. The bill would require the board to post the schedule of rates on its Internet Web site. The bill would also make conforming changes.

      Under existing law, whenever suspected safety standard violations concerning pilot hoists, pilot ladders, or the proper rigging of pilot hoists or pilot ladders are reported to the board, the executive director is required to assign a commission investigator to personally inspect the equipment for its compliance with specified safety standards. This requirement applies to vessels in certain defined pilotage grounds.

      For the Legislative Council's Digest and the AB 907 Ammended see http://www.aroundthecapitol.com/billtrack/text.html?bvid=20110AB90796AMD

      This bill would provide that, if a vessel is expected to pass outside the pilotage grounds before the investigation, findings, and recommendations are complete, the port agent would be authorized to review the initial report of a suspected safety standard violation and any information gathered as part of the preliminary investigation. The bill would further provide that if the port agent, in his or her discretion, concludes that the ladder or hoist presents a potential danger, the agent would be required to report the suspected safety standard violation to other pilot organizations.

      Existing law makes the owner, operator, and agents of a vessel jointly and severally liable for $600 per day when a pilot is unwillingly carried out to sea or unnecessarily detained on board a vessel.

      This bill would increase that amount to $2,058 per day, with additional increases effective January 1, 2013, January 1, 2014, and January 1, 2015.

       
       
    • usaseapower
      PMSA Statement & San Francisco Bar Pilot Rebuttal on Rate Increase Legislation Wednesday, June 15, 2011 PMSA, Rate Increases for the San Francisco Bay Pilot
      Message 2 of 4 , Jun 16, 2011

        PMSA Statement & San Francisco Bar Pilot Rebuttal on Rate Increase Legislation
        Wednesday, June 15, 2011
        PMSA, Rate Increases for the San Francisco Bay Pilot Monopoly Fail To Pass Key Senate Committee:

        Legislation that would increase compensation to $530,000 a year for each San Francisco Bar Pilot who moves container and cruise ships in and about of the bay, today failed to get the votes it needs to pass a key Senate committee. AB 907 (Ma), on a 6-5 vote, did not pass the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, however it was granted reconsideration and could be heard again in committee on June 28th.

        Given the arcane rules that govern the San Francisco Bar Pilot monopoly, all increases in the rates paid to the pilots by their ocean carrier customers must be approved by the state Legislature. Despite a whopping and enviable 60% pay increase in the last nine years -- during a time when millions of Californians have lost their jobs -- the pilot monopoly is seeking to boost net pay to an unbelievable $530,000 in 2015. To remain viable in international trade, California ports must remain cost competitive -- and while the many different costs that go into shipping may seem insignificant on a per ton basis, no cost increase is trivial.

        The San Francisco Bar Pilots respond:

        The San Francisco Bar Pilots remain engaged in the public oversight and review process now underway in the California Legislature of the modest rate increase recommended by the state Board of Pilot Commissioners. It is regrettable, but perhaps not unexpected, that the Pacific Merchants Shipping Association is seeking to block legislation that will enhance maritime safety in Northern California and provide for an additional pilot to help safely guide the largest vessels expected to transit San Francisco Bay. The amount of the rate increase would cost the users of pilot services around 16 cents per shipping container. This is at a time when shipping companies are reaping average profits of around $560 per container.

        Pilot rates have not gone up in five years. We think this recommended rate increase, to be paid primarily by foreign shipping companies, is fair and warranted, given the dangerous, important job the pilots perform on the water every day.

        http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/pmsa-statement-san-francisco-bar-pilot-rebuttal-on-rate-increase-legislation

      • capt.ob@comcast.net
        All Hands: The SF BarPilots do not receive a salary. The Charges to vessels are based on tonnage, draft, etc....The pilots are now negotiating rates
        Message 3 of 4 , Jun 17, 2011
          All Hands:
          The SF Bar Pilots do not receive a salary.  The charges to vessels are based on tonnage, draft, etc....The pilots are now negotiating rates comparable to other like ports. It's amazing that those who are commenting on this issue have probably never been on the bridge of a vessel and witnessed the conning of a ship in close quarters, let alone conned a ship, or have even gone to sea. The pilots EARN every dime of their annual share. I've seen pilots in many foreign ports, and none compare to the SF Bar Pilots...a Busan pilot, going too fast in the fog, t-boned the President Washington some years back...I've seen the Captain take the conn away from the pilot for incompetence, on several occasions, the last time going into Freeport in the Bahamas... The Captain has final authority and responsibility for the safe navigation of his vessel, except in two instances: While transiting the Suez Canal, and when the forefoot of the vessel crosses the treshold of a graving dock. God Bless the Pilots!

          Captain K.C. O'Brien, (ret.)
           International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, ILA, AFL-CIO





        • usaseapower
          ... From: MARK L SHAFER To: PMMC-NLUS@yahoogroups.com Sent: Saturday, June 18, 2011 Subject: Re: [PMMC-NLUS] Re: Dan Walters: Ship pilots, shippers take their
          Message 4 of 4 , Jun 19, 2011
            ----- Original Message -----
            From: MARK L SHAFER
            To: PMMC-NLUS@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Saturday, June 18, 2011
            Subject: Re: [PMMC-NLUS] Re: Dan Walters: Ship pilots, shippers take their money fight to Capitol: AB 907

            Good for you brother. When I was 3rd mate on the Santa Rosa passenger liner built before WWII, the captain took the con from pilots on several occasions.

            Aloha,

            Mark
            _____________________________

            ----- Original Message -----
            From: Charles Gedney
            To: PMMC-NLUS@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Sunday, June 19, 2011
            Subject: Re: [PMMC-NLUS] Re: Dan Walters: Ship pilots, shippers take their money fight to Capitol: AB 907

            Hi Kerry,

            The third place where the Capt does not have control is the Panama Canal.

            Also people tend to overlook the high costs of building and maintaining the pilot boats and the Drake, the crews on the boats and their office staffs, the rent for their offices. They were fortunate in the last few years in not having any accidents serious weather damage which have cut their profit.

            Land Lubbers overlook the dangers involved. It is a job I did not want.

            Chick Gedney
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