Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/16/2003 03:20 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 251-MARINE PILOT FOR FOREIGN PLEASURE CRAFT [Contains discussion of SB 20.] Number 1610 CHAIR ANDERSON announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 251, "An Act exempting certain foreign pleasure craft from the mandatory pilotage requirement." Number 1650 REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM, sponsor of HB 251, explained that this bill exempts certain foreign pleasure crafts from the mandatory pilotage requirements while visiting Alaska. Pleasure craft are vessels that are not for hire. Currently, American-registered pleasure craft of any size are not required to employ a marine pilot, however, all foreign-registered vessels are, she said. The only exception [to the marine pilotage requirement] is while the vessel is moored at a dock or at anchor. The intent of HB 251 is to standardize the operation of pleasure craft by granting a waiver or exemption to foreign-registered vessels of less than 200 feet. A recent Legislative Budget and Audit Committee report [recommended] these changes. Recommendation 4 of the Legislative Audit, 08-20015-02, dated Nov. 1, 2002, reads: The Board of Marine Pilots should seek statutory authority to allow the board the discretion to grant waivers of pilotage requirement to large pleasure craft. REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM noted the time and effort [contributed by] the marine pilots in helping develop this bill. [This bill] will bring greater economic [activity] into Southeast Alaska [through increased yacht traffic]. She said that all parties are in agreement on this bill, and she will present a committee substitute (CS) [at the April 23rd meeting of the committee]. REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM, in response to a question from Representative Rokeberg, said she would prefer to wait until the [April 23] meeting to have the committee adopt a working version of the bill. Number 1762 REX SHATTUCK, Staff to Representative Nancy Dahlstrom, Alaska State Legislature, explained that this bill grew out of the March 12, 2003, [House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee] hearing for SB 20, which extends the Board of Marine Pilots; SB 20 passed out of this committee with six "Do Passes" and passed the House floor with 38 "Yeas" and two excused. He noted that the audit included a letter from DCED [Department of Community & Economic Development] that encouraged the legislature to enact a law that would allow the Board of Marine Pilots [the discretion to grant waivers of pilotage requirements to larger pleasure crafts]. Mr. Shattuck stated that the forthcoming CS will address the concerns of the stakeholders, some of who will testify today. He said that the parties agreed to an amendment [to HB 251] that would exempt [smaller foreign-flagged pleasure craft from the pilotage requirement] and allow the board to waive the pilotage requirement for larger vessels under certain conditions. He explained that foreign-flagged vessels under 53 meters in length would be required to take a pilot [on board] no matter which zone they were going into. They would also be required to use an Alaskan agent, whose purpose would be to make arrangements between the marine pilots and the customer. The Division of Occupational Licensing in DECD would write the regulations [implementing the law]. Number 1872 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked what length vessels are covered in the bill. MR. SHATTUCK explained that [a vessel of] 53 meters is just under 175 feet. He said that the [measurement of] 53 meters will be used because it's an international standard for those vessels. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked Mr. Shattuck to clarify how the bill affects vessels under 53 meters. MR. SHATTUCK replied that any vessel under 53 meters would have to meet the requirements in regulation that will be drafted by the Board of Marine Pilots. He said those standards will cover the vessel size and the requirement to take on a pilot coming into Alaskan waters. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked if a vessel under 53 meters would have to have a pilot. MR. SHATTUCK said that such a vessel would have to have a pilot from the entry point [into Alaskan waters] to the vessel's first port. CHAIR ANDERSON said that a vessel would have to have a pilot from the entry point into Alaskan waters to the first port. It would not have a pilot [after that], whereas in current law a vessel must have a pilot [on board the entire time it is moving]. Number 1933 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG observed that the pilots have "one bite at the apple." He asked about the agent [referenced by Mr. Shattuck]. MR. SHATTUCK said at present there is an agent's license under the Board of Marine Pilots. That agent would arrange for the marine pilots to be available at the pilot stations. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked whether the CS will give specific details for the regulations. MR. SHATTUCK replied the bill will contain the tenants outlined today, while the regulations, formulated in part by the Board of Marine Pilots, will be more detailed. Number 1982 REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD surmised that a marine pilot is on board during the first voyage into Alaskan waters to the first port in order to see if the master is capable of piloting in Alaskan waters. What happens if the master is incompetent, he queried. MR. SHATTUCK replied that the marine pilots will be involved in writing the regulations to cover what should happen in that circumstance. Because the marine pilots are the eyes and the ears of the state, statute gives them some authority to say whether the vessel would be safe in Alaskan waters. CHAIR ANDERSON confirmed that the board will have more of a regulatory purview. Number 2032 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO commented that the marine pilot would notify the Coast Guard of whatever was found. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked what size vessel needs to have a marine pilot aboard. MR. SHATTUCK said that currently, there is an [exemption for foreign-flagged pleasure craft of less than] 300 [gross] tons; that exemption would be removed [under the forthcoming CS]. The CS will deal with vessels up to a maximum of 53 meters, which is just under 175 feet. As far as [waivers for vessels of] a minimum size, [no minimum size] has yet been established. He said he anticipated that [a minimum size will be included] in the CS. Number 2086 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said that it's not the committee's intent to negatively affect the small craft tourism in the state. MR. SHATTUCK replied that the intent is not to impact those craft that would not normally carry a marine pilot. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked why the [exemption for vessels less than] 300 gross tons [will be] removed. MR. SHATTUCK replied that there are vessels of less than 300 [gross tons] that qualify [for an exemption] under existing law but those vessels could be larger than the  feet or  meters [limit in the proposed CS]. Sail craft might have to be addressed separately, he said. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG commented that if the CS is going to remove the 300-ton threshold, there must be an argument [in favor] of that [action]. MR. SHATTACK said the bill is targeting vessels over that [300 ton size], many of which are substantially larger than 53 meters. Number 2164 REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD said that now any [vessel] under 300 tons is exempt from pilotage; it doesn't have anything to do with the length of the boat. If the 300 tons is removed, there will need to be some sort of a minimum size [in statute]. MR. SHATTUCK said in some cases the minimum tonnage is actually larger. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD said, no, in feet. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG surmised that [these vessels] are shorter but weigh more. MR. SHATTUCK agreed. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD said the state wouldn't want to be requiring pilots for a 40-foot ketch. MR. SHATTUCK said that this bill addresses motorized pleasure craft. However, it does not address sail craft. The tonnage issue is something all together different. REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM suggested addressing these questions to the marine pilots [present at the hearing]. CHAIR ANDERSON said that the bill will be held and will be brought up first [at the meeting] next week. Number 2227 KATE TESAR, Lobbyist for Alaska Yacht Services and Provisioning, stated that her client works with yacht owners and yacht management companies throughout the country, assisting these yachts in coming to Alaska. She supervises port services for the guests and crews of these large yachts. She is working aboard a yacht now. MS. TESAR said her client supports [HB] 251. She said that the stakeholders reached agreement on how to address these exemptions a very short time ago. They agreed to work on the language together and so do not yet have specific language for the committee. She said that the group has worked out the 53- meter size limit, which mandates that a pilot be on board at the initial entry point into each region, and the use of Alaskan agents, which will also be a revenue-producer for some of these small communities. The stakeholders support the [legislative audit] recommendation 4 that says the state should address the situation with these large yachts. She said that the yachts bring a large amount of commerce into the small communities. She thanked Representative Dahlstrom and the marine pilots for working to find a solution that will allow this commerce to continue in the state. Number 2302 ROBERT WINTER, Captain, Marine Pilot, Southeast Alaska Pilots' Association, testified that he supports legislation to accommodate the needs of these small yachts, but that his group cannot support HB 251 as written. [The various interested parties] have reached some agreements, but [additional work] is necessary. Mr. Winter said he appreciated Representative Dahlstrom's leadership in bringing together the pilots [associations] and the agents for the small yachts to discuss the issue. He said he thinks there is agreement with the language, so the process can move forward. MR. WINTERS identified several issues key to his group. One is the definition of pleasure craft. He said the group has reached agreement on a legal definition: "a not for hire foreign vessel." [Another issue is that] all foreign yachts would have to [carry] a pilot from the vessel's initial entry into Alaska waters to its first port of call in each region. The purpose of this requirement, he said, is not to decide whether the master was competent, but rather to give the master information on Southeast, for example, gill net openings, cruise ship schedules so that the master would know what traffic to expect, radio frequencies to monitor as well as information on passages. TAPE 03-36, SIDE B Number 2364 MR. WINTER explained that the pilot would make sure that the master had all the pertinent charts. [The pilot's role covers] strictly safety issues. He said the pilots associations would also want to have a pilot on board when the yacht leaves the region. MR. WINTER said the group agreed to a length of 53 meters and agreed to get rid of the gross tonnage because it is an ambiguous number. For example, a 170-foot ship could be 1,000 gross tons, while a vessel [varying in length from] 170 to 300 feet could be 99 gross tons. [Tonnage] is a volume measurement built around a bunch of specialized rules. He used the example of the Yorktown Clipper, which is almost 300 feet but is only 99 gross tons. Therefore, this legislation uses a fixed figure of length and anyone can look at a vessel and determine its length. MR. WINTER said the pilots wanted to put in some conditions on [yachts'] transit. There are some areas, regardless of the size of the yacht, that [should] require a state pilot on board, he said. These include Valdez Narrows, Wrangell Narrows, Peril Straits, and Sergius Narrows in Southeast Alaska. He said the yachts have an option of using a pilot for that transit or choosing a different route so there's no need for a pilot. He said the concern is for commerce. If a ship of 170 feet goes aground in Wrangell Narrows, it would interrupt commerce as well as ferry traffic. He said that the pilots consider this a safety issue. They also want an Alaska-registered agent to represent the yachts. In the past, the pilots have had a difficult time getting paid by some foreign yachts. An agent takes care of bonds, [can be held responsible for payment to the pilots], can arrange contracts and give pilots advance notice, and handles the customs and immigration details for the yachts. Number 2261 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG noted that there's a distinction [in state law] now in the exemptions between a U.S.-registered and foreign-registered vessels of less than 300 tons. He asked if the compromise leaves the U.S. registry alone or will it apply to both types of registry. MR. WINTER replied that the requirements for U.S.-flagged ships are federal. He explained that the federal government regulates U.S.-flagged vessels, and the state regulates foreign vessels. The legislature can't do anything about U.S.-flagged vessels. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked about the federal requirement for pilotage on U.S.-registered vessels. MR. WINTER responded that if the vessel is under 99 gross tons and [engaged] in coast-wise trade, even if it's a U.S. hull, the master and the mates must have made three round trips in every area before they can act as a first class pilot. The Yorktown Clipper, the Sea Lion, and many other 99 gross "tonners" seen in Southeast Alaska all have crew on board that have made a minimum of three round trips in every area. For a pleasure yacht, there is no such requirement. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG confirmed that for any U.S.- registered [pleasure craft], there is no restriction or requirement for pilotage. He also confirmed that this [bill applies] only to foreign-registered vessels. MR. WINTER said only if those vessels are under 300 gross tons. He said HB 251 covers vessels up to 53 meters -- they would have no pilotage requirements other than initial entry and exit and for the couple of narrow passages in Southeast. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked whether smaller pleasure craft from British Columbia are considered foreign registry. MR. WINTER said if it's between 20 and 53 meters, it [wouldn't] need a pilot. A vessel under 20 meters does not need a pilot. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked about the minimum [vessel size of under 20 meters]. MR. WINTER said the 20 meters comes from the COLREGS, which is The International Regulations for Avoiding Collisions at Sea or Rules of the Road. He said that 20 meters [65 feet or less] is the break between small vessels and big vessels. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said anything above the 53 meters would have to have a pilot. He recalled that Mr. Shattuck mentioned inbound pilotage and inquired about outbound [pilotage]. Number 2140 MR. WINTER said that [pilots would be required to be onboard] on initial entry and on exit from the region; that's the only two times pilotage would be required. He described different entry points in Southeast Alaska. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked if there is a problem with availability of pilots. MR. WINTER testified that since pilotage started in Alaska in 1972, there has never been a ship that went without a [requested] pilot. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked how long in advance do vessels need to make a reservation [for a pilot]. MR. WINTER said that a reservation must be made 96 hours in advance, according to statute. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG inquired as to the typical cost of an in-bound voyage. Number 2119 MR. WINTER said it would be $600-900, depending on the weather. CHAIR ANDERSON said he will hold [HB 251] over until next week and keep public testimony open.