PMSA fights San Francisco pilot rate hikes
The California State Board of Pilot Commissioners voted this week to substantially increase the rates and surcharges paid to the pilots who guide cargo ships in and out of the San Francisco Bay.
The proposed rate increase would bring the average annual income of pilots in the Bay Area from $400,000 to around $530,000 in 2015.
That's far in excess of what pilots in the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex earn, the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association said in a statement Wednesday.
PMSA, which represents the bulk of transpacific shipping lines and terminals operators, argues that pilots, while vital, are already well compensated. PMSA suggested a rate increase that would have driven annual income to around $425,000 by 2016.
“We appreciate the important work done by harbor pilots everywhere and believe they should be fairly compensated for their work,” said John McLaurin, PMSA president. “However, for the State of California to recommend increasing this rate and further driving up pilot compensation is irresponsible and unjustified.”
PMSA said pilots in Southern California, who work the nation’s busiest container port, have a base compensation of $227,000 per year.
“We will vigorously fight this exorbitant pay increase in the legislature,” McLaurin said. “This increased cost directly hinders the ability of our members to improve our ports’ infrastructure to make them more efficient, invest in the environment and create jobs.”
The pilot board of commissioners justified the rate increase by saying pilots in San Francisco Bay are under more scrutiny since an accident involving a COSCO Container Lines ship when a pilot was the helm.
Pilot revenues are generated by applying a rate to the size of the ships they guide, PMSA said. As ships grow in size, pilots’ incomes increase accordingly, regardless of any increase in rates. In 2002, when the last rate increase was recommended by the state, the board increased pilot rates by a cumulative 22 percent but pilot incomes increased 53 percent. ' Eric Johnson