I was glad to see that Bill Nemitz’s Aug. 31 piece on the pilotage requirement for The Cat was an opinion column as opposed to reporting, as it was long on opinion and short on facts.

It is true that up until 2012, the ferries calling on Bar Harbor and Portland were not required to take pilots on every trip in and out of state waters. (There were different requirements for Bar Harbor and Portland on the frequency of pilots being required to pilot the vessels.) Maine was the only state in the nation that allowed a foreign flag vessel, or a U.S. flag vessel engaged in foreign commerce, to not take a state pilot on every trip.

Several years after The Cat ceased operation, and with no foreseeable ferry coming in to replace it, the Maine Pilotage Commission and the Portland Harbor Commission collectively agreed that this loophole in the Maine statute should be removed. The possibility existed for a large cruise/ferry vessel to start service and not be subject to state oversight (through the pilots being aboard the vessel).

Unlike the captain and crew of a vessel, who are accountable only to the shipowner, the local pilot is held accountable to local authorities (the state of Maine or the Portland Harbor Commission) and their mandate to protect lives, commerce and the environment. The U.S. Coast Guard, the Portland Harbor Commission and the state of Maine have no authority over a foreign license.

Had Mr. Nemitz inquired about The Cat’s off-season operations, he would have learned that the vessel was required to use the services of a state pilot in Florida on every trip as well.

The bill to remove the exemption was passed unanimously by the Maine Legislature and signed by Gov. Le-Page in 2012. I certainly believe the bill needed to be passed because it made sense from a safety point of view.

The Costa Concordia ran aground on Isola del Giglio in 2012 because a captain felt like showboating and no one on the bridge was able to challenge what he was doing. This same captain had previously made trips on other cruise ships into Maine waters. The pilots in Maine would not have allowed this to happen, and their presence aboard ensures that it never will.

Rather than simply questioning the amount and method of the Portland Pilots’ latest rate increase in Portland Harbor, Mr. Nemitz instead chose to ignorantly attack a system that protects the state on a daily basis. The Legislature acted appropriately when they eliminated a loophole large enough to drive a ship through.

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