Brazilian pilots are playing fair

I wrote the following letter to the prestigious magazine Safety at Sea International (http://www.safetyatsea.net/).  The letter, which was published in the November 2009 issue, helps understand the Brazilian maritime pilotage system better.

I would like to comment on the News Insight feature in SASI‘s September 2009 issue [p13].

First, Elias Gedeon’s claim that the Brazilian pilotage system is an unregulated monopoly does not agree with reality. Brazilian law requires pilotage fees to be fixed by negotiation between pilots and carriers; only when there is no consensus will the Maritime Authority intervene by mediation or, ultimately, arbitration.

If there is any lack of regulation on pilotage, it is on the side of the carriers. In August, following a commercial dispute with Itajaí Pilots, Centronave members – which account for 75% of the Itajaí pilotage cash flow – decided not to pay the fees for services already rendered. It was an attempt to use the carriers’ economic dominance to asphyxiate the service and force pilots to bow to their demands. This caused the Maritime Authority to summon both the pilots and Centronave to ensure the service would not come to a halt for economic reasons.

Second, the reason why pilots do not stop the service in the event of a standoff during negotiations is because the law forbids pilots to do so. Only the Maritime Authority can suspend them, and then only for safety reasons.

Third, pilots have been a cost-effective ‘asset’ for most Brazilian ports. By allowing larger ships to transit safely in restricted waters, pilots were instrumental in boosting Brazilian maritime trade.

At a time when one witnesses a shortage of experienced and qualified officers, the need to protect life, environment and property, and to help public interest and welfare prevail over private concerns and market forces is all the more important. This is exactly what pilots are for.

Alexandre Rocha —President, Itajaí Pilots (Brazil)

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