Make us your home page
Instagram

Tampa Bay harbor pilots' call for rate hike criticized

Representatives of cruise lines, two major ports and various maritime businesses blasted a rate increase requested by Tampa Bay harbor pilots Wednesday at the first public hearing on the issue.

Speakers warned the proposed 27 percent increase over three years would punish shippers struggling with the weak economy and high fuel costs. Local pilots, who earn more than $250,000 a year directing huge ships through Tampa Bay, already charge the highest fees in Florida.

"The cruise industry is ... challenged by historical fuel increases and associated increases in expenses for goods and services," said Matthew Sams, a vice president of Holland America Lines. "It is simply unfathomable to us how the pilots think they have the right to ignore current economic realities."

Holland America and Carnival Cruise Lines said they will reconsider basing ships in Tampa if state regulators grant the rate hike. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, the only other cruise ship operator in Tampa, also opposes the proposal.

The Tampa Bay Pilots Association contends its members need higher rates to offset increased expenses and lower income because fewer ships are calling on local ports. They are also asking for a fuel surcharge to cover higher costs of the diesel fuel their boats burn.

Average pay for a Tampa Bay pilot has dropped from $366,292 in 2006 to an estimated $262,392 this year, says the association's rate application with the state Pilotage Rate Review Board. A half-dozen pilots attended Wednesday's hearing in Tampa but didn't defend their request.

"It's not a time to debate,'' said Capt. John M. Wrasse, a local pilot. "It's to let the public express their opinion.''

Officials from a dozen businesses, trade groups and port authorities in Tampa and Manatee County raised objections.

Container carrier Zim Integrated Shipping Services said it pays $3,977 in pilot fees each time a ship docks in Tampa — about double the cost of Miami or Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

South Florida pilots make shorter trips than the minimum 4 1/2-hour trip through Tampa Bay. But local pilot fees also are higher than in Mobile, Ala. ($2,706), and Savannah, Ga. ($2,832), both with similar transit times to Tampa Bay's, said Zim.

AAA Auto Club South, which sells cruises from Tampa's port, warned that losing a ship would inconvenience its customers and hurt hotels, restaurants and attractions that cater to cruise tourists. "Push our cruise ships out, and you push tourism out with them," said CEO Tom O'Brien.

Comments from Wednesday are part of an investigation into the proposed rate hike. Richard Law, a certified public accountant, will issue his report in about a month. The rate review board is expected to hold a full hearing in Tampa later this year.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (814) 226-3384.

Tampa Bay harbor pilots' call for rate hike criticized 08/06/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 11, 2008 3:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood

    Business

    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  3. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  4. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  5. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags

    Autos

    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]