A proposal that could drastically increase costs for harbour pilots at the Port of Savannah could also compromise growth at the port, a lawmaker has warned.
During a 25 June congressional floor debate on a 2016 federal spending bill, Buddy Carter, a US congressman from Georgia, explained that the US Park Service was using the legislation to increase a lease agreement with the Savannah Pilots Association from USD25,000 per year to up to USD250,000/year.
Since 1940 the Savannah pilots have been leasing from the park service a parcel of land on Cockspur Island, part of the Fort Pulaski National Monument. But a major increase in the lease rate could force the pilots off the island, Carter said.
He noted that because pilotage services are required by law, vessels are forced to use their services to move in and out of the port. Cockspur Island, which is located at the entrance to the harbour, is the most efficient location from which the pilots can operate, he said.
Therefore, “moving the facility could lead to longer transit times for vessels, increased safety risk in foul weather, delays in ship movement, and greater fuel usage for pilots and vessels waiting to call on the Port of Savannah,” Carter asserted.
He added that resulting environmental and economic harm “would significantly increase costs and could threaten growth” at Savannah just as the construction is about to start on the port’s USD706 million harbour deepening project.
Ken Calvert, chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Interior and Environment subcommittee, said he would work with Carter “to find an equitable and timely solution”.