Pohnpei Port pilots demand fairer pay for the risks that they take or they will stop services

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
March 10, 2017
Pohnpei—The services of Pohnpei’s pilots are required to help bring in the large ships that supply vital supplies to Pohnpei such as fuel, groceries and other supplies. Though a letter to Pohnpei Port Authority said that the pilots would stop services as of March 3 unless an agreement can be reached but they agreed to keep working until after the public hearing. At issue is the allocation of fees for pilotage services under a new proposed Pohnpei Port Authority contract with the pilots.
The proposed contract with the licensed pilots proposes the same percent of revenue share for pilotage services that the operator grudgingly agreed to five years ago according to a letter dated February 27, 2017 from Ramp & Mida Law Firm which is representing the pilots. PPA proposes to again take 60 percent of the pilotage fee and give 40 percent to the pilots who perform the service, according to the letter that KPress received late yesterday afternoon.
A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for the period of time during which the KPress will be preparing for print. PPA has not had opportunity to comment.

The letter asking for a public hearing on the proposed contract said that when the pilots began operating in 2000, the fee share was 90 percent for the pilot and 10 percent for PPA. Sometime in 2012, PPA changed its regulations and contracted pilots were able to collect 40 percent of pilotage revenues while PPA took 60 percent of those fees. Independent pilots received only 30 percent of pilotage fees collected for vessels entering the harbor that required a pilot.
According to the letter, the contracts have all expired and all pilots have been receiving only 30 percent of pilotage collections.
The letter reminded the PPA Board that pilotage is a highly skilled profession, rife with liability. It says that the new proposed contract requires the contractors to indemnify the port for any liability that might occur while the pilots provide their services, leaving the Port itself with no liability. Further the contractors must independently supply for their own health insurance and tax burdens. It said that while, during the last five years the pilots were obliged to provide services under the 40-60 allocation, it has begun to cause an undue hardship on the operators, “as the risks they continue to undertake as part of their profession are outweighing the compensation received by their efforts.”
“The Pilots take great pride in providing an essential service to PPA and to all vessels entering the Main Harbor of Pohnpei. However, the current allocation between PPA and the Pilots for pilotage charges does not adequately reflect how essential this service is to Pohnpei State. PPA has the power to amend, modify or waive the current regulation dictating that the Pilots receive forty percent of the charges for pilotage service. The Pilots formally request that this policy is changed back to the original division of charges, with ten percent of the charges being retained by PPA and the balance being remitted to the Pilots,” the letter says.

Editor’s note: The letter and the information in it is late breaking news. We apologize to PPA and to readers that we had no data on how much annual income for pilotage services are collected by PPA on an annual basis, and that we had no opportunity to contact PPA for comment before press time.

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