by Tom Peters

Atlantic Pilotage Authority (APA) will increase pilotage fees in 11 of its 17 compulsory ports effective Jan. 1, 2014. The increases are necessary for pilotage ports to remain financially self-sufficient and provide required service levels without cross subsidization.

APA’s CEO Capt. Anthony McGuinness said contributing factors to the increases are a decrease in the number of assignments and the necessity to maintain the right number of pilots. “There is a lot of training that goes into becoming a pilot. You cannot just lay pilots off and rehire them,” he said. “Pilots take several years to train so that is a factor. It is a hardship to have to bring on a new trainee in anticipation that a pilot may retire in two or three years’ time but our customers fully understand that.”

Capt. McGuinness said the tariff increases, pilot numbers and assignment projections were all discussed with APA customers earlier this year.

In Nova Scotia, Sydney, the Strait of Canso and Bras d’Or will each see rates increase of 10 per cent, whereas Halifax rates will be increased by 2.75 per cent. Saint John, NB, will see fees increase by 3 per cent, while Newfoundland, Labrador, St. John’s and Holyrood will each see increases of 10 per cent. Placentia Bay rates will increase by 5 per cent. Also in 2014, three ports in Newfoundland and Labrador, Humber Arm, Bay of Exploits and Stephenville, will be charged a 10 per cent surcharge on their present tariffs, but that surcharge is only applicable for one year. Effective Jan 1, 2015, St. John’s and Holyrood will be subject to further rate increases of 10 per cent, while Placentia Bay, Sydney and Bras d’Or rates will rise by another 5 per cent.

In 2013, pilotage fee for an average sized ship in Halifax amounted to $1,854, to be raised to $1,903 in 2014. In Saint John, average 2013 pilotage fees of $2,317 will be hiked to $2,383 in 2014. Tariffs are based on ship units which are determined by a set formula. In Halifax an average sized ship is equivalent to 456.67 units and in Saint John the average ship is 439.65 units. The number of units per ship varies from port to port depending on the types of vessels that call the port.

APA says the overall tariff increases will generate an estimated $964,000 of additional revenues in 2014, representing a 4.6 per cent increase, and another estimated $426,000 in 2015. Without the tariff adjustments, APA had projected a $776,000 loss in 2014 and an estimated $818,000 loss in 2015. The adjustments are projected to provide APA with a profit of less than one per cent of projected 2014 revenues, rising to about 2.2 per cent in 2015.