January 25, 2008
Florida’s ports are essential gateways to the world, and our harbor pilots are the gatekeepers who give ships access to our ports. Last week I joined our harbor pilots for their board meeting in Panama City and for a tour of the Port of Panama City.
Wayne Stubbs, Director of the Port of Panama City, and Captain Richard Frudaker, who is a board member from Panama City, gave us the tour of the Port. Under Wayne’s leadership, the Port has grown dramatically over the past several years.
The port now has trading partners in Central and South America, China, the Mediterranean and Europe. Their imports include steel plate, steel coils, lumber, copper and bulk aggregates. Their exports include linerboard, wood pulp, machinery and miscellaneous general cargo, and Wayne pointed out that the lumber resources in the surrounding region are becoming increasingly valuable as exports to trading partners around the world because energy companies are combining wood with coal to improve air quality.
In fiscal year 2003/04, our licensed pilots were responsible for 900,000 tons of cargo that passed through the Port of Panama City, and by 2008/09, the Port is projecting 1.5 million tons of cargo. The business will continue to grow, particularly as Northwest Florida develops.
After our Port tour, we visited with some of our longtime Captains and learned more about life as a pilot – the joys of life on the water, the impact of post-9/11 regulation and interesting trends in technology. We were joined by our Board members, leaders from the Florida State Pilots Association, and leaders from pilot associations from around the state.
Our statutes and rules governing our pilots have been used as models not only for other states but for other countries. Over the years, our Board members have worked to set high standards and to hold their peers accountable. Before someone can be examined as a pilot, they must have at least 2 years sea service either while serving under the authority of an Unlimited 2nd Mate, a Master 1600 ton license, an Unlimited First Class Pilot in U.S. ports or the Great Lakes or certain service on military vessels, and pass the exam with the highest score of the qualified candidates. Once a pilot is licensed, they are trained for a minimum of two years and held to very high standards, including an obligation to self-report any accidents that occur while they are at the helm.
These high standards ensure not only the safety of the pilots and the crews but also that Florida continues to be a leader in world trade.
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