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Hanna-Martin: Marine Pilots Issue Being Closely Monitored

Though there has been no immediate intervention on the part of the government to resolving the dispute between marine pilots and several port companies on Grand Bahama, Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin yesterday said the matter was being closely monitored.

Late last month, Managing Director of The Bahamas Marine Pilots Association (BMPA) Erin Ferguson revealed that 11 pilots from the Freeport Harbour Company (FHC), Bahamas Oil Refining Company International (BORCO) and Stat Oil had tendered their resignations citing safety concerns and demanding independence.

Mr. Ferguson said at the time that Freeport continues to be one of the most poorly organised locations in terms of pilotage at the ports.

He also expressed concern that there were ships being anchored with no pilots on board.

The companies have refuted these assertions and insisted that they maintain the highest safety standards and work to ensure that the ports are continuously safe.

Neither side has shown any sign of backing down from its respective position, and with less than two weeks before the pilots’ resignations take effect, Mrs. Hanna-Martin is cautiously optimistic that the matters will be resolved.

“We are watching the situation…it’s an industrial issue,” she said. “The Minister of Labour is involved and watching to see what happens in terms of the Freeport Harbour Company and those pilots.

“The Ministry of Transport is watching to see what the outcome will be ultimately. We had been originally engaged in discussions with The Bahamas Maritime Pilots Association before its formation and after its formation to hear its concerns about certain areas and issues within the industry. So now they’re engaged in a certain dispute or impasse with their employers. And so we’re watching that to see how that unfolds.”

While Mrs. Hanna-Martin refused to speculate about the implications these resignations will have on the ports, she did however note that the companies will need to find a way of maintaining their operations.

“If you have a mass resignation of employees, the employer will have to see how it will best manage,” the minister said. “It will either replace those individuals or it will engage [them]. I think what they [the pilots] intend to do is to offer their services back to the port. It’s an issue that is evolving and we are watching to see how it evolves.

“My understanding is that out of this resignation, the pilots intend to reoffer their services to the port but they wanted to form themselves into an association that was independent of employment-employee status and so we have to watch and see how it unfolds and that’s where we are right now. We are watching it carefully, but we will see how it unfolds.”

Both FHC and BORCO have insisted that they have contingency plans in place and maintain that the pilots’ resignation will pose minimal impact on their operations.

The pilots’ resignations are expected to take effect on March 28.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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