PILOTS AND PILOTING ON TAMPA BAY VII

[cleeng_content id=”291566475″ description=”Part VII” price=”0.24″]

 

Certain physical hazards incidental to piloting are ever-present, tragic proof of which has been provided on numbers of occasions One pilot lost his life by drowning and another was permanently disabled, necessitating his premature retirement. Some months ago another of our members was injured and is still unable to resume his duties. As in all businesses the success of our operation depends in very large measure on our employees. Twelve in number, they consist of our office manager, secretary, night dispatchers, boatmen, mechanic, and cooks” They are skilled individuals and many of them have been with us for years.  In terms of number of vessels and tonnage Tampa is by far the largest port in Florida.  Moreover, as noted earlier, its 40 mile pilotage route is almost twice as long as the next longest. For these reasons the port also has the greatest number of pilots of any Florida port. Maintaining a pilot station on Egmont Key and certain other factors make it the most expensive such operation in the State.  Despite this, pilotage services are provided at the same cost to the ship-owner as in the other ports in Florida. Chapter 310, Florida Statutes, as mentioned before, is the controlling State law insofar as pilot commissioners, pilots and pilotage are concerned. This Board of Pilot Commissioners is our governing body and the State agency charged by law with the responsibility for insuring adequate pilotage services. Thus, their regulation, while much simpler and confined to the local level, is, nevertheless, very similar to that exercised by the Public Service Commission over the several power and communications utilities of the State of Florida. Briefly stated, our Board of Pilot Commissioners is authorized by Chapter 310 to appoint pilots and apprentices, regulate pilotage rates, conduct hearings on casualties involving vessels coming under their purview and to take appropriate action in absolving from blame or disciplining pilots in such cases.

These basic regulatory and even earlier in certain cases& powers date back to 1868. Certain sections of Chapter 310 and another chapter not related to pilots or piloting, all enacted before the turn of the century, provide for specific authority and duties, which have become obsolete in view of modern port operations. For example, pilot commissioners are to “act as port wardens” — whatever that means — to examine vessels and cargo and stowage thereof, and to attend public auctions of vessels or cargo and to oversee and direct such auctions. The reason for these now-obsolete provisions was simple: there was then no other appropriate public body to attend to these matters.

All of the foregoing brings us to the important question: who bears the expense of pilotage and how are pilots paid? To begin with, the pilotage rate is $8~25 per foot of draft. Thus, the total pilotage fee equals this figure times the draft of the vessel each way. The ship is billed this amount by our association, usually through their local agent.  After all monthly expenses for current operations and capital expenditures are deducted the remainder is divided equally among the fifteen pilots. The State pilotage system has come under fire from time to time for various reasons and from diverse sources. It would take much time and serve no useful purpose to recollect them. Yet one indisputable fact stands out above all others: Florida State pilotage in general and the service offered by the Tampa Bay Pilots in particular have existed as a regulated public service from the beginning at no expense to the taxpayer and with no risk or liability to anyone save the ship-owner and the pilots themselves.

One final and perhaps only indirectly related comment: the greater Port of Tampa and its maritime interests, including the Tampa Bay Pilots, are today at the crossroads. The needs of this port for deeper channels to accommodate the vessels of ever-increasing size and draft have been documented time and again. Much has been done by public agencies and private interests to bring this about.  The Tampa Port Authority in particular should be singled out for commendation for their untiring efforts on this project. Yet much remains to be done at the higher levels of government. Failure or inability on the part of the appropriate Federal agencies to take timely and effective action on these desperately needed improvements will~ in the opinion of this speaker, inevitably force us all down the by-way of immediate decline and eventual oblivion as a port of world-wide importance.

John D. Ware
3114 Morrison Avenue
Tampa, Florida 33609
August, 1970[/cleeng_content]