Great Lakes pilots protest Coast Guard’s failure to raise carrier rates
Three U.S. pilot groups chastised the Coast Guard for its failure to increase pilotage rates for vessel operators using the Great Lakes.
Federal law requires the Coast Guard to annually review and adjust pilot compensation rates. However, the agency skipped full reviews/adjustments for the Great Lakes pilot rates in 2002 and 2003. The pilots are concerned that the same may occur in 2004.
The three Great Lakes pilot districts that voiced their concern to the Coast Guard are the Western Great Lakes Pilots Association, based in Superior, Wis.; the Lakes Pilots Inc. in Port Huron, Mich.; and the St. Lawrence Seaway Pilots Association in Cape Vincent, N.Y.
According to the pilot groups, the Coast Guard said a 25-percent rate increase to fund the Great Lakes pilotage system was needed and the agency “promised” the increase would be in place by the beginning of the 2003 shipping season, starting in March.
“Foreign shipping companies promptly objected and the Coast Guard immediately backpedaled,” said the pilot groups in a statement. “The Coast Guard waited until the 2003 shipping season was entirely over before announcing a partial rate increase of 5 percent, a fraction of its original projection.”
Adding to their frustration, the pilot groups said the foreign shipping companies have successfully tripled their freight rates. The pilots called the Coast Guard’s multiyear delay in a full rate adjustment “a flat-out American subsidy of foreign shipping companies.”