Pohnpei Port Pilots agree to continue work for 20 days while PPA board considers their demands


By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
March 23, 2017
Pohnpei—In a letter written by an attorney representing the Ship pilots that service the Pohnpei Port, the pilots threatened to go on strike as of March 3 unless an agreement for better compensation could be reached. They later decided to continue work pending a hearing that took place on March 10. After that hearing they agreed to continue their work for 20 days to give time for the Board to render a ruling on their demands.
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.

At issue is a new proposed contract for piloting services proposed by PPA (Pohnpei Port Authority). The new contract would be for the same percent of revenue share that the operators 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 proposed to again take 60 percent of the pilotage fee and give 40 percent to the pilots who perform the service.
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 only 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 since the contracts expired.
“Anyone can challenge the regulations of the port,” said Port Manager Pius Roby. “Friday’s meeting was a hearing to challenge the Port’s regulations. After the hearing, the Pilots agreed to continue work for 20 days while the board considers its response.”
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.
On March 23, PPA’s Board Chairman, the Honorable Rosa Willy Hawley said that he felt confident that PPA and the pilots could come to some sort of agreement.