The Reserved channel in South Boston is not growing in size but it is about to grow in depth and vessel congestion. With the funding now in place for the navigation improvement project to begin, the challenge of safely navigating ships calling on two terminals within the Reserved channel in South Boston is about to become a reality. With a channel width of approximately 600ft the margin of safety is about to change when New Panamax vessels start to arrive on a regular basis. Conley terminal will be capable of accepting New Panamax 160ft beam container vessels. One can only assume New Panamax Passenger vessels are soon to follow. Today the ships berthing regularly in the Reserved channel are 106ft Beam. The cranes at Conley extend father into the Reserved channel to 135ft. The new cranes that will be built to accommodate the New Panamax beam ships will reach out 170ft. When the cruise ship season is in full swing there are times when three ship widths decrease the navigable channel to 25% and less in inclement weather. To say that maneuvering ships safely in the New Panamax era will be a challenge is an understatement. Tugs in the Reserved channel may become a regular occurrence for those cruise ships who normally do not want to utilize a tug. Most cruise ships have their own thrusters but when winds increase and the size of vessels increase the navigable channel will not accommodate a crab angle great enough to safely maneuver without Z-Drive tugs tethered to a ship.
Furthermore, the commercial strain on the working port of Boston is real. Waterfront development along Boston harbor is at a premium for real estate developers trying to find ways to develop on land designated for Marine Industrial use. Also, the third harbor tunnel (Ted Williams) has forever constricted dredging the upper harbor to 40 feet. This leaves everything south and east of the tunnel (South Boston) the only area that can accommodate a New Panamax vessel. With the loss of virtually all the deep-water ship berth space to real estate development in East Boston there is little left in the Port of Boston for ships to bring in new business. Also, the loss of rail and double stacking to the berths forces Massport customers to rely on a trucking corridor to the Alston rail yards.
The long awaited Boston Harbor improvement project has appeared to receive final funding from congress this week. Link here. What does this mean for Boston? The most significant impact is the Conley container terminal in South Boston will be able to accept the new New-Panamax vessels calling on other ports on the eastern seaboard. Project details link here. Massport also has plans to expand Conley terminal with new cranes on to be developed property along the Reserved Channel. Conley Container Terminal Expansion link here.
Mariners are subject to alcohol and drug testing by Federal and State regulations. What happens if these procedures are not properly observed and those in charge of the pilot associations D&A program fail to inform or adhere to the regulations? What happens when a boat Captain fails to report the smell of alcoholic beverage emanating from a member or colleague? There currently is nothing to prevent a coverup of drug and alcohol abuse outside of a random drug and alcohol test order. Those in charge of the D&A policy enforcement are often an employee or fellow association member. What if a member has a previous conviction or has a history of drug or alcohol abuse? What about an arrest for driving under the influence? Many courts allow DUI's to be expunged after a period of time. What happens when a pilot conceals such an event?
These are questions that exist but they are also questions that need to be addressed to ensure those commissioned to guide ships under the public interests are sober while on duty and act responsible when they are not behind the wheel of a car. Is it time to place an alco-sensor on every pilot boat? Should there be penalties for failing to report a past event? What happens to individuals or those in charge of a D&A policy are discovered to cover up an event past or present? Would the public feel safe knowing a member has a Drug or Alcohol problem has acted under the authority of there license?
It's time to take the potential or existing abuse away from those who can or actually do circumvent D&A regulations. Would you as a public member be comfortable allowing a trainee or currently licensed member who has or has had a documented event in there past to take the conduct if a ship? Should a candidate with a clear record be passed over by one who has a past DUI or conviction? What if the applicant becomes a member and it is later discovered a DUI was not reported? Should this constitute and automatic suspension and revocation?
Is it perfect? No
Could it be better? Yes, In my opinion all the best and brightest should be able to apply not just Massachusetts residents. The rules also exclude a lot of professional mariners who would qualify in other ports in the US.
What is not known about cost? You will not be making Masters wages. You will be working a lot more for less money than the currently commissioned pilots after you start piloting on your own. The Boston Harbor Pilot Association LLC has control of all money,billing and the books. Not even a retired pilot has any idea if they are receiving their full retirement share they are entitled to receive.
Does nepotism exist? There are currently two brothers who are commissioned pilots and one son of a former Boston Pilot.
What is the demographic of commissioned pilots. All are Massachusetts residents. 8 of 9 commissioned pilots are Massachusetts Maritime Academy Graduates. 7 out of 9 are members of the Boston Marine society.
Is there gender or ethnic bias? All currently commissioned pilots in Boston are Caucasian and male.
What is the business structure? There are three companies Boston Harbor Pilot LLC, Broad Sound Navigation Corporation, and the Boston Pilot Relief Society. The LLC is where the money flows. BSN owns the pilot boat the LLC pays rent to and it shareholders benefit from the rentals as well. The BPRS is used for those in need. The commissioned pilots receive money from the LLC and BSN. The retired pilots are supposed to receive 20% of a pilots share after 20 years of service.
How does it all work and function? The Boston Pilot office is contacted by the owner or owners agent for all arrivals and departures. Pilots take a rotation turn as jobs come in. It is required by state law that pilots be in rotation in order to perform their fare share of work. Link to Boston Pilot Commissioners Regulations
How much does a Boston Harbor Pilot earn? A fully commissioned Boston harbor pilot earns in the neighborhood of $500,000/year.
Do retired pilots receive benefits? Yes, When leaving a retired pilot is supposed to receive 20% of all monthly profits. Also, The retired pilot receives a departure good will bonus of a formula of the average of the last three years total compensation multiplied by 1.5. Also, three months pay after leaving is paid to the retired pilot.
Does the Commonwealth of Massachusetts charge for pilotage service? No, The pilots are the only entity who bill for pilotage service. The Boston Marine Society receives %2 link here
How does the money flow? The LLC does all the billing and receives all the funds. Broad Sound Navigation receives rent from the LLC and disperses on a quarterly bases to the shareholders only. Boston Pilot Relief Society is self sufficient and receives yearly benefit from a trust.