Florida harbor pilot monopoly
president, Florida Shipowners Group Inc., Florida-Bahamas Shipowners & Operators Association
Count me as astonished by the lack of focus on what’s important by our politicians. Florida Sen. John Thrasher, R-District 8, splashed across Florida editorial pages this Sunday with his support for the special interests of an elite group of 80 or so Florida pilots who monopolize access to Florida ports by cargo vessels.
Harbor pilots block entry into their profession to keep a strangle hold on our ports and thus preserve their huge incomes (some pilots earn over $400,000 per year). This monopoly comes at the expense of the competitiveness of Florida's ports and serves no public good of any kind.
Thrasher has the nerve to tell us that pilots work 'at no cost to the taxpayer.' I disagree emphatically. Their monopoly enabled fees directly impact the cost structures of shipping companies (who pay taxes), many headquartered in Florida, and give relative advantage to providing shipping service to non-Florida ports.
Florida's job generating export businesses (also taxpayers) are in the hands of shipping companies serving Florida. As Florida ports become less competitive so does Florida business. Florida businesses (taxpayers) are forced to pay an unjust 'tax' of higher relative costs and endure the impact on their viability of a loss of competitiveness.
Thrasher has chosen to ignore the thousands of jobs created by these U.S.-owned exporting companies and the warehousing, trucking, logistics, and port jobs that support them. Instead he publicly and loudly expresses support for a small clique of pilots seeking protection in Tallahassee of their de facto monopoly.
The issue at hand is not to do away with the pilots as Thrasher seems to suggest, but to change the governance and oversight of this monopoly, and bring managed reason to the increases pilots keep demanding, allowing Florida to be more competitive generating growth and the good jobs that go along with the increased business.