“I’m trying to figure out how the process that just took place was meaningful,” said Harold Pachios, attorney for “The Cat” following a public meeting called by the Harbor Commissioners for Portland Harbor late this afternoon. The Cat is a ferry service that runs daily between Portland and Yarmouth NS.
The defendants’ attorney Twain Braden had no comment following the public meeting at city hall in South Portland tonight.
Acting on a motion made by Munjoy Hill resident and long-time Board member Dan Haley, the Board voted unanimously to raise the pilot fee for The Cat to $1,200. per round trip in and out of Portland Harbor as it did previously in May of this year; the vote came at its October 12th meeting at City Hall in South Portland.
The May 70% rate increase decision was made in under five minutes and with no input from The Cat according to the lawsuit filed by the plaintiff’s attorney recently. The Board failed to give any notice to The Cat of the agenda item so it could attend the meeting, declare its opposition to the unwarranted hike rate and provide data to support that position.
The alleged illegal increase sparked a lawsuit filed in late August by attorney Pachios – a lawsuit that the Superior Court Justice Walker has not yet ruled on. The Board said this evening that the proposed unjustified rate hike will be voted upon by the Board at a Wednesday, November 1, 2017 public hearing at which public testimony will be entertained.
The Haley motion followed testimony by attorneys representing both sides of the issue. Attorney Twain Braden told the Board that the reduction in “dead weight tonnage” ships in the Harbor necessitated the 70% hike in fees for The Cat. A reality that is expected to continue unabated in the future. Haley, a retired insurance industry executive, boasted that he’s experienced in recommending insurance rate hikes having been seated at boards and commissions set up for that purpose. “I’m comfortable with this rate hike,” Haley said.
But, Pachios, PretiFlaherty, challenged the process that the Board has followed so far. Portland Pilots is a monopoly and consequently has no competition in the Harbor. Therefore, the Board is tasked with ensuring that its rates are “just and reasonable” Pachios said. He called for much more transparency in the rate setting process – citing model practices used by regulatory bodies up and down the East Coast. He urged the Board not to simply “rubber stamp” the rate hike application of the Pilots. A recommendation that the Board decided not to follow when it voted for the unsubstantiated 70% increase.
“This public hearing is to talk about the proposed rates. Do you have any information about what the rates should be? Are you going to present any evidence at all?”, Chair Dobbins, asked impatiently, clearly angry at being out smarted. “We are not interested in the process followed by other regulatory bodies on the East Coast,” Dobbins scolded Pachios.
“We can’t do this in a vacum. We need to have a process where witnesses can present information and be cross-examined, Where books can be opened up,” Pachios responded to an annoyed Chair Dobbins.
A factor not considered at the October 12th South Portland meeting hosted by the Board is that The Cat captains are all Americans. They are all graduates of Maine Maritime Academy, Castine. Obviously, they are well-acquainted with Portland Harbor because of their training and experience. Consequently, repeated escorted trips by the Portland Pilots are unnecessary and frankly an abuse of their monopoly status in the Harbor. Jim Wilson, VP and GM for “The Cat” said following the meeting that none of the other four ports his ships service require pilot escorts. That’s because the captains are all extremely familiar with the ports; Portland Harbor is the only port requiring pilot escorts on all trips in and out of the Harbor. (See above left photo of Jim Wilson.)
“This is a scam,” charged this blogger following the public hearing this evening. “It’s a scam between the Commission and the Pirates to secure its viability that otherwise would be at risk given current realities. And it adds risk to the tourist industry that is so important here in Portland.”
As noted in previous posts by this blogger on this controversy, there are no women serving on this bastion of male mediocracy.
For more background information on the lawsuit, please see posts dated September 20, 2017 and September 28, 2017 herein.