Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Coalition Opposes Columbia River Pilotage Increases

A coalition of ports, steamship operators and shippers are opposing requests by two Oregon pilot groups to the Oregon Board of Maritime Pilots seeking substantial pay increases.

The Columbia River Bar Pilots, or CRBP, has asked the Oregon Board– which sets pay rates for pilots in Oregon– for a 34.5 percent increase in pay for pilots, $1.2 million to hire four new pilots, and $1.4 million in incentive income. The similarly named Columbia River Pilots, or COLRIP, have also asked the OBMP for a nearly 100 percent increase in the pay for it's pilots.

Pilots in Oregon currently earn a net income of about $215,000 a year, with another $70,000 in the form of benefits and pension. Top earners collect up to 20 percent more than the average annual salary. In 2008, shippers paid more than $30 million in pilot fees to less than 60 Columbia River system pilots.

Both pilot groups, CRBP and COLRIP, have stated that it is their goal is to obtain the same level of pay as pilots in the California Bay Area and Puget Sound, which can range from $350,000 to well over $400,000 a year.

As pilots are funded through pilotage charges on ship operators, these additional funds would have to be borne by increased pilotage rates and fees.

The Columbia River Steamship Operators Association, in addition to the ports of Portland and Vancouver USA, have asked the Oregon Board of Maritime Pilots to reject any wage increases for the two pilot groups.

In fact, the CRSOA and the ports are seeking a reduction in pilotage costs, and want to see the state board reduce the number of pilots necessary to serve the reduced ship traffic, which is down in some places along the river by 30 to 40 percent.