San Francisco Bar Pilots convince only themselves
No one is impressed by their pay rise
The verdict is in and it's a resounding howl of derision against the substantial leg up for San Francisco Bar Pilots, who will be raking in about half-a-million big ones a year within the next three to four years. (Officially, California's political rulers still have to approve the decision, but that's a formality. The legislature endorses virtually every recommendation of a state commission – a refusal would be a vote of no confidence in the very people the politicians have appointed).
Outrageously, the commission cites the Cosco Busan incident as a factor in giving the pilots more. Their reasoning is a distortion, deliberate or otherwise, of the extreme unease that mariners have about the jailing of pilot John Cota – part of the world trend of turning every seafaring incident into a criminal act. (Cota did not intentionally ram the bridge.) Pilot salaries had nothing to do with the ship hitting the bridge. It was simple human error and negligence. No one can figure out what difference a salary hike will make to the prevention of similar accidents in the future.
Insurance premiums certainly don't come into it – accident and liability cover is a separate issue to salaries.
The 60 Bar Pilots also maintain that an increase in salary will make very little difference to shipping lines' costs. That is beside the point and they know it. Taxpayers and consumers are bombarded with rate increases and fees that make very little difference individually to costs (household telephone bills in California list nine extra charges, most of which are utterly bewildering) but should not be there in the first place.
Much play is made about marine pilots being highly specialized and being very experienced sailors. It might come as a surprise that the job nationwide often is akin to a closed shop – being handed down the generations in the same family, with some pilots having sailed only in the waters of their home area. Some never get to crew ocean-going vessels and, indeed, there was a revelation a couple of years ago about pilots in another coastal area of the US automatically bequeathing their jobs to their sons, who had virtually no training at all.
San Francisco has set a way mark. It's just another peg in the measuring board that makes commercial shipping in the US so expensive.