New York and Connecticut Intend to Hire Outside Contractor to Manage Pilots

Responding to the need for change in the way marine pilotage is handled in Long Island Sound, the Connecticut Department of Transportation, in coordination with the State of New York, intends to hire a contractor to manage and operate the marine pilot system in Long Island Sound. Saying that “We are partners in this due to the nature of the waters,” CONNDOT’s Chuck Beck left no doubt that Connecticut intends to continue the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the States of New York and Connecticut. Still to be worked out are the details of the pending Request for Proposal (RFP) that Beck says he hopes to have out within the next 45 days.

At a special meeting of the Connecticut Pilot commission on Monday of this week, Beck distributed the one page DRAFT OUTLINE which he wrote and had reviewed by a staff attorney. According to Beck, the document was also discussed with New York’s Executive Director of Pilots, “Well prior to the meeting.” As laid out in the DRAFT OUTLINE, a future MOA contractor could have control of Pilot boat operations, an Apprentice Pilot program, a Training Program for licensed pilots and a host of other responsibilities related to the administration of the pilot work schedule.

Beck refused to characterize the new and proposed plan as “outsourcing,” saying, “Certain pieces of pilot oversight in Long Island Sound have already been outsourced.” He also left the door open for the current providers of the MOA administration to stay in place. “Anybody and everybody can bid for this contract,” In the end, he says, “We’ve been waiting for people to come together for a long time. We can continue to muddle along as before, or we can try to create change.” Following the 30 to 45 day period in which he hopes to formulate the RFP, a 60 day response period is anticipated, again followed by a 30 to 60 day evaluation and decision period by CONNDOT. If all goes well, he says, the new system could be up and running by 1 January 2007.

The MOA between New York and Connecticut, in place since 2003, has left many of the pilots in the work rotation dissatisfied, particularly with regard to a rate structure which has not changed in 23 years and the lack of a formal pilot apprentice program. At this time, a moratorium for the issuance of new licenses is in effect between the MOA signatorities. Although CONNDOT Marine Transportation Manager Chuck Beck acknowledged that adequate maritime personnel were not currently in place in Connecticut to properly oversee the pilots, he also said that the RFP also comes in response to frustration by MOA signatories at the lack of cooperation and organization between the existing group(s) of pilots in the rotation.

Beck also said that future changes to the rate structure would be predicated on receiving the required information from the MOA administrators; some of which was still pending. And, despite the impending issuance of the RFP and new changes to the Connecticut Pilot Commission which give the Commissioners additional powers, reform is still likely to be slow in coming. At least one MOA pilot expressed concern over the new proposal, which is possibly the first of its kind in North American waters.

Contact Managing Editor Joseph Keefe at jkeefe@maritime-executive.com