Last week, Assemblymember Rob Bonta (CA-18) introduced Assembly Bill 1372, legislation that addresses a long-standing and urgent need to change the process for setting pilotage rates under the authority of the California Board of Pilot Commissioners.
AB 1372 would bring California’s rate-setting process in line with practices from across the state and the country, and allow the California Board of Pilot Commissioners to set rates in a process overseen by an administrative law judge. California’s current rate process is unique in two ways: First, California is the only state in which the legislature must act after its pilot commission has already conducted a comprehensive and lengthy administrative hearing process. Second, of the few states that set rates legislatively, it is the only state that does not adopt new rates on a regular cycle.
“The San Francisco Bar Pilots provide frontline services that are critical to maintaining the safe and efficient transit of commercial vessels to and from all Bay Area ports,” said Assemblymember Bonta. “COVID-19 has created serious challenges for the already outdated trade infrastructure that currently exists for shipping vessels and AB 1372 would help to ensure a more efficient system for the delivery of necessary goods.”
This cumbersome and sometimes contentious process has resulted in deferred investment in the State’s pilotage system, and the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the adverse consequences of this deferred investment to light. To ensure the supply chain keeps moving, urgent reform is needed to support this critical piece of California’s infrastructure.
The San Francisco Bar Pilots, one of California’s essential transportation partners, is a key supporter of this legislation. The Bar Pilots navigate commercial ships to and from the nine Bay Area ports, and support at least $130 billion in trade and 84,000 Bay Area jobs. The services this organization provides have been crucial in growing maritime trade throughout the region.
“The Bar Pilots navigate vessels as large as Salesforce Tower through some of North America’s most challenging waterways, 24/7, 365 days a year,” said Capt. Joseph Long, President of the San Francisco Bar Pilots. “We need a rate-setting process that can act more quickly – and regularly – to make rate adjustments. This has become even more critical due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.”
Assembly Bill 1372 is scheduled to appear in front of the Senate Governmental Organization in July after the legislature returns from summer recess.