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Brazos Pilots Association
News Release
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Brazos Pilots Association's attempt to insure the needs of a growing Port Freeport are thwarted by the Port’s Pilot Board
Pilots warn if not reversed, the Pilot Board's July 10, 2017 ruling creates and reveals conflicts of interest and will unnecessarily raise taxes for Brazoria taxpayers

Freeport, Texas - The Brazos Pilots Association (BPA), alleging “serious errors” including conflicts of interests by the Board of Pilot Commissioners for Brazoria County Ports (Pilot Board), has filed a motion for reconsideration of the Pilot Board’s order of July 10, 2017, said Captain Daniel Blanton, presiding officer.

“We invested three years in negotiating a rate adjustment with the overwhelming majority of Port of Freeport shippers for much needed port improvements,” said Capt. Blanton, “and handed the Pilot Board a plan that will enable one of the nation’s fastest growing, most economical and safest ports to continue to expand safely and efficiently in the future.  Notwithstanding the years invested in the plan, the Pilot Board voted to ignore the desires of industry and the best interests of the port users and the public by proposing actions that will favor two shippers, the personal interests of a board member and increase taxes for the County's citizens.”

The Brazos Pilots formally presented their thoroughly documented rate adjustment proposal at a June 28 public hearing of the Pilot Board. The rate adjustment proposed by the Brazos Pilots provided that 100% of all pilotage expenses would be paid for by those shippers who are required by law to use pilots to enter and exit the Port. Never in the history of Texas have pilotage costs been passed on to the taxpayers. Eighty-percent of all of the port users, including Dow, ConocoPhillips, BP and Freeport LNG, supported BPA's rate application. Industry viewed the Brazos Pilots’ rate request as an essential infrastructure project necessary to maintain and support Port Freeport's unprecedented growth and booming petrochemical business, while also protecting the waterway and keeping it safe and operating efficiently notwithstanding the increased demands caused by additional ship traffic.

To the detriment of the overwhelming majority of port users favoring BPA's rate application, which includes some of southern Brazoria County's biggest employers, the Pilot Board's order favors two minority port users that also happen to lease facilities directly from Port Freeport. The Pilot Board's inexplicable deference to Port Freeport raises a potential conflict of interest issue because the Pilot Board is comprised of the Commissioners for Port Freeport, although the obligations and duties are completely different for the Pilot Board and the Port Freeport Commissioners. There is also evidence that at least one of the members of the Pilot Board has a financial interest in pilotage, which would require him to abstain from voting on the rate application.

“The Pilot Board’s order on the rate application will essentially shift the burden of paying for a new pilot boat and for an updated communications system from shippers who use the pilots to pilot their vessels in and out of the Port to the taxpayers of Brazoria County,” said Blanton.

The Pilot Board has not yet announced a date and time for a public hearing on BPA’s motion for a rehearing.

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.  Texas law requires all ports in Texas to have state licensed pilots to board and guide foreign and US flagged ships inbound and outbound from the port.  The Port of Freeport enjoys a widely recognized reputation as one of the safest ports in America and the Brazos Pilots are recognized contributors to that hard-earned reputation.

According to Capt. Blanton, the Brazos Pilots enjoy one of the best safety records in the industry and a high degree of satisfaction by the users of pilot services at Port Freeport.  “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.

For more information: Henry de La Garza, The Pilots PIO (713) 622-8818.

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