California Pilotage Rate-Setting Reform Proposed

California Assemblymember Rob Bonta has introduced legislation to change the process for setting pilotage rates under the authority of the California Board of Pilot Commissioners.

Assembly Bill 1372 would bring California’s rate-setting process in line with practices from across the state and the country, and allow the California Board of Pilot Commissioners to set rates in a process overseen by an administrative law judge. California’s current rate process is unique in two ways: First, California is the only state in which the legislature must act after its pilot commission has already conducted a comprehensive and lengthy administrative hearing process. Second, of the few states that set rates legislatively, it is the only state that does not adopt new rates on a regular cycle.

Assemblymember Bonta says this cumbersome and sometimes contentious process has resulted in deferred investment in the State’s pilotage system, and the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the adverse consequences of this deferred investment to light.

The San Francisco Bar Pilots, one of California’s essential transportation partners, is a key supporter of this legislation. The Bar Pilots navigate commercial ships to and from the nine Bay Area ports, and support at least $130 billion in trade and 84,000 Bay Area jobs. The services this organization provides have been crucial in growing maritime trade throughout the region.

Assembly Bill 1372 is scheduled to appear in front of the Senate Governmental Organization in July after the legislature returns from summer recess.

By Sarah Spangler