SOURCE: Brazos Pilots Association

Brazos Pilots Association

July 06, 2017 10:00 ET

Overwhelming majority of Port of Freeport shippers approve of port improvements proposed by the Brazos Pilots Association

FREEPORT, TX--(Marketwired - July 06, 2017) - The Brazos Pilots Association has negotiated a rate adjustment with the overwhelming majority of Port of Freeport shippers for the needed improvements that will enable one of the nation's fastest growing ports to continue to expand safely and efficiently in the future, announced Captain Daniel Blanton, presiding officer for the pilots.

All shippers transiting inbound and outbound on Texas waterways at the Port of Freeport pay the rates charged by the pilots. No public monies or taxpayer revenues are used to finance the services of the Brazos Pilots. Only those shippers using our waterway pay for pilot services. Industry is responsible for paying pilotage fees at all Texas ports and US ports.

"Our largest customers have put their support of our proposal in writing," said Capt. Blanton. "We took the initiative and time to meet with and carefully listen to each of our client shippers in developing a proposal that fits their future needs." An unprecedented 80% of the port users provided written support for the proposal. The proposal, if granted by the Pilot Commissioners, will allow pilots to continue to service the growth of the port users as the users continue to invest in our port providing local jobs and economic development for the County's citizens.

"The overwhelming majority of port users at Port Freeport, as well as its most frequent users, support our rate application," said Capt. Blanton. "They are pleased with our pilot services and proposed improvements. Over the last three years, the Brazos Pilots took the initiative and time to meet with all port users to inform them of our plan and respond to their questions and concerns. Our outreach was very well received by port users and helped us earn their support. We did our homework and the overwhelming industry support demonstrates the value of our efforts."

"Our corporate partners like Dow, Enterprise, Phillips 66, FLNG, and BP, as well as many others supporting our port are to be recognized for their demonstrated commitment to the safety of our waterway," said Capt. Blanton. "And the Freeport community must understand the capital investments our port partners have already invested in the infrastructure that can manage our growth safely. These corporate citizens have demonstrated their commitment in writing with a willingness to help fund our proposed safeguards through the rate adjustment requested. The Brazos Pilots look forward to continuing our partnership with industry to ensure Port Freeport continues to be one of the safest and best places to do business."

The Brazos Pilots formally presented their thoroughly documented rate adjustment proposal at a June 28 public meeting of the Port of Freeport Commissioners. The presentation included testimony from sworn witnesses and questions from the six commissioners and attorneys representing three objectors for more than six hours. The port commissioners accepted the pilots' proposal and scheduled a public meeting for 2 pm, July 10 when they are expected to announce their decision on approving or amending the rate proposal.

"We must replace our current 40' single engine pilot boat with a larger 65' twin engine model that will require higher operating costs while delivering superior service," testified Capt. Blanton. "We will need a 24-hour/365-day dispatch and communications service for Port Freeport to be able to satisfy industry demands around the clock. The larger pilot boats and expanded dispatching capabilities will enable the Brazos Pilots to meet the demands of industry while enhancing safety and efficiency of vessels sailing inbound and outbound without interruption and delays."

The pilots' rate adjustment application is composed of three parts: 1) a 3% upward adjustment of pilotage rates for the next 3 years to offset the higher engine replacement, maintenance and operating cost of the new pilot boat; 2) a $200/vessel movement surcharge to finance the purchase and maintenance of replacement pilot boats; and 3) a $300/vessel movement surcharge to support a new 24/365 pilot dispatch service.

"New pilot boats will deliver improved safety and efficiency while a 24-hour dispatching service will improve safety and efficiency of vessel movements and other pilot services," explained Capt. Blanton.

The Brazos Pilots are recommending these additions to enable Port Freeport to maintain its competitive edge and ensure our port's growth and stability while enabling the Brazos Pilots to perform our job safely and efficiently. "Our proposed improvements will benefit all port users as well as all citizens of Brazoria County and will come at no cost to county tax payers," said Capt. Blanton.

"We also want to point out that shippers at the Port of Freeport pay the lowest pilotage rates than are charged at any of the six other Texas ports and at most, if not all, U.S. ports. And that will not change even after the rate adjustment goes into effect," said Capt. Blanton. "Further, the proposal by the Brazos Pilots represents investment in capital assets and increased services and revenue to maintain a higher level of service. The revenue from the rate adjustment will not individually compensate the Brazos Pilots, but instead will be used to fund the requested improvements."

The Brazos Pilots are state licensed pilots responsible to the state of Texas for ensuring the safe and efficient transit of ships and vessels on state waterways at the Port of Freeport. Every port in Texas requires state licensed pilots to board and guide foreign and US flagged ships inbound and outbound. Port Freeport enjoys a widely recognized reputation as a safe port and the Brazos Pilots contribute to that hard-earned reputation.

According to Capt. Blanton, the Brazos Pilots enjoy one of the best safety records in the industry. "We recruit and train only the best master mariners and we work hard to stay ahead of safety on our public waterway. A safe port is a prosperous and competitive port. Port Freeport is among the safest and fastest growing ports in the nation -- and we intend to keep it that way," said the presiding officer.

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