San Francisco Bay bar pilots up the ante

While union dockworkers and truckers have long been criticized for making U.S. West Coast ports weaker, another faction of organized labor may pose an even greater threat to the competitiveness of one major ocean cargo gateway.

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While union dockworkers and truckers have long been criticized for making U.S. West Coast ports weaker, another faction of organized labor may pose an even greater threat to the competitiveness of one major ocean cargo gateway.

Last week, the California State Board of Pilot Commissioners voted to recommend an increase in the rates and surcharges paid to the pilots who guide cargo ships in and out of the San Francisco Bay.

If enacted, shipping through the Port of Oakland will suddenly become more costly.

This action by the Board will be forwarded to the state Legislature, which must approve the increases before they become effective. San Francisco Bar Pilots made an average individual income of nearly $400,000 in 2010.

This proposed rate increase, coupled with predicted growth in shipping, will result in a projected income of around $530,000 per pilot by 2015.

Prior to the hearing, the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association submitted a proposal to the Board of Pilot Commissioners requesting a rate increase of 22 percent over four years.

This request would have meant that the pilots who work in the San Francisco Bay would have pushed their projected income to more than $600,000 by 2015. The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA), representing ratepayers, also submitted a rate change request, one that would have resulted in pilot net incomes of $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.”

The San Francisco pilots already are the highest paid in the state. When compared to the Port of Los Angeles, where pilots work the nation’s busiest container port and have a base compensation of $227,000 per year, it is overwhelmingly clear that they already have significantly higher pay than their peers.

“We will vigorously fight this exorbitant pay increase in the Legislature,” added McLaurin. “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.”

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About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at pburnson@peerlessmedia.com.

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