Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/19/2003 08:46 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE CS FOR CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 251(TRA) "An Act relating to exemption of certain foreign pleasure craft from the mandatory pilotage requirement and to civil fines imposed on the owner or operator of a pleasure craft of foreign registry; and providing for an effective date." This was the first hearing for this bill in the Senate Finance Committee. Co-Chair Wilken explained that this legislation would exempt foreign pleasure craft, measuring 65 feet or less, from the State's mandatory marine pilotage requirements. In addition, he specified that foreign pleasure craft measuring 66 feet to 175 feet could apply for an exemption from the requirement. REX SHATTUCK, Staff to Representative Nancy Dahlstrom, the bill's sponsor, explained that this legislation would allow for the imposition of civil fines for violation of the Marine Pilotage Act; would exempt foreign pleasure craft of 65 feet or less from the pilotage requirements; would institute an application fee structure for vessels measuring between 66 and 175 feet applying for an exemption from the pilotage requirements; would mandate the use of an Alaskan licensed marine pilot for yachts exceeding 125 feet but less than 175 feet in overall length on their initial voyage in State waters; and would establish a process whereby foreign pleasure craft vessels measuring between 66 feet to 125 feet could hire a licensed Alaskan agent. In addition, he stated that provisions are included that specifically address the definition of "for hire" and "pleasure craft." He stated that this legislation was prompted by a recommendation from the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee audit (#08-20015-02 November 1, 2002)[copy not provided]. Senator Taylor asked for clarification that existing law is based on gross tonnage as opposed to overall vessel length as specified in this legislation. Mr. Shattuck concurred that the change "is a shift" from gross tonnage to overall length "as length is an easier measure to understand." Co-Chair Wilken clarified that the version of the bill being considered by the Committee is SCS CS HB 251(TRA), Version 23- LS0865\Z. Senator Taylor understood that a foreign vessel measuring 65 feet or less would be exempt from the requirement to have a licensed Alaska marine pilot onboard in Alaskan waters. Mr. Shattuck concurred. Senator Taylor asked for details pertaining to the vessel pilotage waiver application for vessels exceeding 65 feet. Mr. Shattuck explained that vessels exceeding 65 feet but measuring less than 125 feet in overall length could apply for a waiver to be exempted from the marine pilot requirement. He specified that were an exemption granted, the vessel would be required to hire an Alaskan licensed agent to provide information as determined by the Board of Marine Pilots. He continued that, in addition to acquiring a waiver and hiring an agent, vessels exceeding 125 feet but being less than 175 feet in overall length would be required to hire an Alaskan licensed marine pilot to initially enter Alaskan waters. Senator Hoffman asked for an explanation regarding the inclusion of language in Sec. 4, on page 3, lines 17 - 21. This language reads as follows. The exemption must remain on the vessel while the vessel is in state water. An exemption issued under this subsection does not exempt a vessel for the requirement to employ a pilot licensed under this chapter while the vessel is in Wrangell Narrows or in the water between Chatham Strait and Sitka via Peril Strait. Mr. Shattuck replied that these areas have been identified as areas wherein a marine pilot would still be required, regardless of any provisions that might be implemented in the bill. Co-Chair Wilken clarified that vessels larger than 65 feet would be required to hire a Marine pilot to transverse those specific areas. Mr. Shattuck concurred. Senator B. Stevens stated that, were this legislation adopted, transitional language would be necessary to provide vessels sufficient time to apply for the waiver this year. He specified that an amendment would be required to address the timeline as specified in Section 4 on page 3, lines 7 through 12 that reads as follows. The application for an exemption must be submitted to the board at least 30 days before the vessel enters the state. The Board shall approve or deny an application for the exemption within 10 working days after the application is received by the Board. Mr. Shattuck stated that he must confer with the bill's sponsor before he could not comment on an amendment. However, he acknowledged Senator B. Stevens' concern that implementation might be problematic this year. Senator Taylor asked how existing law would be affected were the effective date of the legislation postponed. Senator B. Stevens clarified that existing law specifies that vessels exceeding 300 gross tons, or approximately 65 feet, would be required to have a marine pilot onboard while in Alaskan waters. Senator Taylor understood that a pilot would be required until this legislation went into affect. Senator B. Stevens argued that, were transitional language not provided in this legislation, vessels would be required to abide by status quo regulations for the entire summer season of 2003. Senator Taylor asked the entities that would be affected by this legislation. Senator B. Stevens stated that in addition to large yachts, vessel provision suppliers would be affected. Senator Taylor declared that pilots are required on vessels to ensure that vessel transit is safe. He assumed that the majority of these vessels are private pleasure craft and are not for hire, and therefore, he questioned the necessity of this legislation, as he noted, separate legislation has been adopted that exempts private vessels from liability for its passengers. He asserted therefore, that this legislation is not necessary. Co-Chair Wilken asked regarding the United States Coast Guard's (USCG) position on this legislation. Mr. Shattuck stated that currently the USCG is issuing "no opinion" regarding this legislation. Co-Chair Wilken mentioned that the legislation is modeled after current State of Washington regulations. Mr. Shattuck concurred, although he mentioned that one difference is that the State of Washington has a traffic control system in place in the Puget Sound area, whereas, none are currently specified for Alaskan waterways. He continued that an area of concern that has been discussed but is not addressed in the legislation is how the State would monitor vessel location and determine the number of vessels that might be in State waters. He stated that estimates in the legislation regarding the number of vessels that might transit Alaskan waters are based on vessel numbers in the State of Washington as well as on inquiries from vessels that the State has received. Co-Chair Wilken asked for further information regarding the requirement that a vessel measuring between 65 feet and 125 feet or 175 feet must have a marine pilot on board from its entry into Alaskan waters to its first port of call. Mr. Shattuck clarified that vessels ranging from 65 feet to 125 feet in overall length must hire an Alaskan agent to arrange the particulars of their trip and that a vessel measuring 126 feet to 175 feet must hire a marine pilot. Co-Chair Wilken asked the marine pilotage requirement for vessels ranging from 65 feet to 125 feet. Mr. Shattuck responded that rather than being required to hire a marine pilot, those vessels would be required to hire an Alaskan agent who would arrange for obtaining their waiver and would provide the vessel with information established for entry into Alaskan waters. Co-Chair Wilken asked whether the agent would be retained until the vessel's first port of call. Mr. Shattuck clarified that the agent would be retained for the vessel's complete journey. Amendment #1: This amendment inserts a new section into the bill on page 4, line 11 as follows. The requirement in AS 08.62.180(b), enacted in Section 4 of this Act, that an application for exemption be filed at least 30 days before the vessel enters the state does not apply to a vessel entering the state less than 30 days after the effective date of this Act. Senator B. Stevens moved to adopt Amendment #1. He stated that this transitional language would be identified as Section 5. Co-Chair Wilken objected for discussion. Senator B. Stevens explained that, were this legislation adopted, this language would provide a 30-day transition period to allow vessels that are traveling to or in Alaska for the summer season to apply for the waiver. Co-Chair Wilken expressed that this amendment would be limited to the initial stage of the legislation. Senator B. Stevens concurred. He reminded the Committee that the original marine pilotage legislation was enacted numerous years earlier to specifically require a marine pilot to be onboard the Greenpeace vessel, the Rainbow Warrior, during its transit in Alaskan waters. He noted that in response to the increase in large, private yacht traffic in the State, this legislation is an attempt to update the original requirements. He stated that this is a good "compromise" to address the concerns of the pilots, the USCG, and other affected parties. He urged members to support his amendment. Senator Taylor asked whether the amendment would require vessels to abide by existing regulations or would exempt vessels from all requirements during the 30-day transition period. KATE TESAR, Representative, Alaska Yacht Services and Provisioning, commented that the amendment would allow those vessels in transit at the time the legislation takes effect to be exempt from the 30- day prior-to-trip waiver application requirement. She stated that the inclusion of language in the bill that specifies that vessels transiting certain waterways, such as the Wrangell Narrows, must have a licensed marine pilot onboard, addresses marine pilots' concerns regarding the easing of pilotage requirements. Mr. Shattuck opined that the amendment would address the concern regarding the effective date of the bill. Co-Chair Wilken removed his objection. There being no further objection, Amendment #1 was ADOPTED. Co-Chair Green asked whether the committee substitute being considered would reduce the revenue estimates in the Department of Revenue's accompanying fiscal note. Mr. Shattuck responded that the Department's revenue estimation would not be significantly impacted because the exact number of vessels that would be affected by this legislation is unknown. He communicated that more reliable numbers would be provided following the bill's first year of enactment. Co-Chair Wilken noted that numerous communities have expressed an interest in this legislation. He stated that, provided the outcome of this legislation proves to be safe and environmentally sound, it would be interesting to receive feedback from communities as to whether this legislation provided a benefit to them as opposed to the State "taking this risk with no benefit." Additionally, he noted that ship provisioners should benefit from the legislation. He encouraged the bill's sponsor to develop methodology to monitor the outcome of the legislation. Mr. Shattuck communicated that Representative Dahlstrom has expressed an interest in developing methodology to study the affects of the legislation. He attested that a major goal of this legislation would be to provide economic benefits to communities in Southeast Alaska. Senator Taylor moved to report the bill, as amended, from Committee with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal note. There being no objection, SCS CS HB 251(FIN) was REPORTED from Committee with a new zero fiscal note, dated May 19, 2003 from the Department of Community and Economic Development.