Judge throws out rate increase for Maine pilots

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(PORTLAND, Maine) — A judge has thrown out a 2017 increase in the fees that pilots charge to navigate large ships in and out of Portland Harbor, saying the sharp and sudden rate hike raises “a red flag,” the Bangor Daily News reported.

The ruling on Friday by Justice Lance Walker came in a lawsuit brought against the Portland Board of Harbor Commissioners by Bay Ferries Ltd., a Canadian company that operates The Cat ferry between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

Walker wrote that the regulatory body failed to do its due diligence in raising pilotage fees more than 50 percent last November. The Maine Superior Court judge called the steep increase “highly irregular” and chided commissioners for considering the Portland Pilots' costs but not how much money the two men who handle all piloting in the harbor earn.

“Any intelligent exposition of a significant rate increase must by the rules of basic arithmetic include more than expenses, which are only half the equation,” Walker wrote.

The pilots have said that they’ve lost money and been forced to cut staff in recent years as the number of tankers entering the harbor to use the Portland-Montreal pipeline has dropped. They’ve said that the increased fees align with rates charged in other ports.

In the spring of 2017, the harbor board raised the minimum pilotage fee to $1,200, then revised it to $1,077 in November.

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By Professional Mariner Staff