Bay State 2007 Marine Pilotage Legislative Agenda Takes Shape

Various maritime-related bills are looming large in the coming legislative session, where the fate of each proposal promises to change the face of marine safety in Massachusetts waters

Four proposed bills, some of which do not have the final language hammered out, are now named and on the docket in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Three of the proposed laws promise to test the scope of legislative influence exerted by outside lobbyists. One faces limited, but crippling opposition from a vocal but influential minority. Below, we list the four bills and provide a short description of each, and a synopsis of their intent:

•Bill S515: An Act Relative to Rates of Pilotage

The Boston Pilots are seeking an 11-1/4% pay increase. They last received an increase in wages and compensation in 2001, after originally filing for that increase in 1998. In effect, they have not had an increase in pay in 10 years. An amendment has been attached to that bill, recognizing Veteran status of Pilot applicants, among other things. This amendment comes in response to (inquiries) about the eligibility (and qualifications) of certain individuals to become Boston Pilots.

•Bill S528: An Act Relative to Veterans Preference on the Pilots (Natural Resources committee)

This Bill specifically addresses the amendment to S515, with the intent that the amendment does not satisfy the requirements of the person or persons who would someday like to become a Boston Pilot.

•Bill S1349: An Act Relative of Port Security

This Bill specifically addresses the conditions under which "docking masters" could be become state-certified and licensed individuals while also defining the role (ability) of the Boston Pilot Commission to regulate their conduct, business relationships and compensation schemes. The bill runs contrary, in many ways, to the regulations now set up to control the way that Boston marine pilots conduct themselves, how they are compensated and how they become licensed. The Bill is also widely recognized as a replacement for SB 1330, which languished in “study” and is now effectively dead.

•Bill S1407: An Act Relative to the Composition of the Boston Pilot Commission

This bill will effectively reshape the composition of the Boston Pilot Commission, and to a large extent, politicize the pilot oversight and selection process in Massachusetts.

* * *

In the coming weeks, MarEx will begin the examination of the Massachusetts political landscape as it relates to State pilotage issues. And, while some might think that the issues in the Bay State are essentially parochial in nature, nothing could be further from the truth. What happens at the (arguably) niche port of Boston, Massachusetts has the potential effect of spreading to other locales. One thing is now clear: The wild, political ride experienced in Boston Harbor over the last 18 months will seem tame compared to the legislative session now looming large on the horizon.

Join us in the weeks to come as we revisit one of the oldest ports in the United States and see what has changed in the ten short months that have followed our groundbreaking series, "Boston: One Harbor, Two Stories -- Public Safety in the Balance." MarEx readers wanting to get (back) up to speed on the issues facing Boston Harbor in 2007 can e-mail MarEx at vleichtman@maritime-executive.com for reprints of this four-part series. In the meantime, you can contact Managing Editor Joseph Keefe at jkeefe@maritime-executive.com with comments, questions or inquiries.