Categorized | National News

Marine Pilots Resign Over Port Safety

Marine pilots have submitted their resignation letters to the Freeport Harbour Company (FHC) amid claims that conditions at the harbour violate international standards and pose significant danger to their health.

Managing Director of The Bahamas Maritime Pilots Association (BMPA) Erin Ferguson said the pilots have repeatedly asked FHC to address their concerns. However, he said, nothing has been done.

The pilots have since given their 30-day notices to the company.

Eleven pilots – five from FHC and six from The Bahamas Oil Refining Company International (BORCO) have resigned.

“Freeport is organised very poorly in terms of pilotage at the ports,” Mr. Ferguson said. “The pilots don’t receive the adequate training that is necessary. The pilots are on ineffective shift systems with only two pilots, and in some cases at the Harbour Company, one pilot to a shift where there could be nine sometimes 10 ships coming in at one time and honestly, that is dangerous.”

Mr. Ferguson said there are even ships being anchored with no pilots on board.

He said in the last six months, there have been three incidents at the anchorage.

“That is a level of incidents that would have caused intervention in most ports,” he added. “But in Freeport the Harbour Company and the port director [has] refused to respond. We’re just moving towards a standard that is clear, concise and following international standards. Freeport is one of the only ports not following these standards and that is dangerous – it is not safe.”

Mr. Ferguson said that the issue could be resolved if the harbour company would simply allow the pilots to be independent.

He said because the pilots are not independent the pilots are not being trained properly, not being sent to simulators and are not doing bridge control training.

In the meantime, he assured that services will not be interrupted.

“The pilots resigned because they have a fully licensed company, the Freeport Pilotage Company (FPC) which will provide the pilotage services on an independent basis to ships coming into harbour,” Mr. Ferguson said. “So no services will be suspended. The pilots in the resignation letter cited the law that lists it as an offense in the Port Authority’s Act for a pilot to withhold services unreasonably. So there will be no suspension of services.”

On Sunday, FHC confirmed that it had received and accepted formal resignations of five marine pilots and it assured stakeholders that it had a team of pilots in place to service harbour requirements.

“The Harbour Company has for some time been aware of the intention of some of our pilots and appropriate contingency measures are in place,” the company said in a statement. “This action of our pilots to force the Harbour Company to hand over its investments, legal and rightful business to them will not succeed.”

FHC is privately owned joint venture between the Hutchinson Port Holding and the Grand Bahama Port Authority.

BORCO is a private company owned by Buckeye Partners.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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