The San Francisco Bar Pilots
know how to lobby Sacramento, witness AB 907.  As a result this
homogenized monopoly of 55 men and one woman hold exclusive state licenses
which allow them to drive ships in, out and around the San Francisco Bay, and
this license comes with some great benefits.

They have a great pension.  As the only non-public
employees with a publicly mandated defined benefit pension system in California,
they don’t have to contribute a penny towards their own retirement.  This
small perk costs somewhere between $250 million and $650 million, depending on
who you ask.  Either way, pilots are receiving annual retirements of over

They have great work
.  In 2010 each
pilot actually piloted about 140 times, that’s a job on average once every 2
and a half days.  And many of those jobs, like the ships moving from sea
to the Port of Oakland are completed in 3 or 4 hours.

They have great
  The San Francisco
Bar Pilots make a boatload, with little to no risk or overhead to worry
about.   The total cost of the state pilotage system in 2010 was
$46.8 million – that’s over $800,000 per pilot.  After you take care of
reimbursing all of their direct expenses and the costs of keeping their state
licensing board up and running, they’re left with an average net income of
about $440,000 per pilot over the past five years.    

But more than anything else, the
SF Bar Pilots are great at being undefined
.  The pilots have been
successful at reaping the rewards of a monopoly for years because they have
embraced a series of contradictions.  Consider this:

Not content with these
benefits under current law, this public entitlement system for a wealthy chosen
few, is on full display as the pilots seek legislative approval to increase
their current salaries of $400,000 even higher. 

One pilot justification for
increasing their rates through 2015 is that increases will be paid by faceless
foreign companies. 

Unfortunately, as is true
with monopolies, it is always the ultimate consumer who pays.  In this case it is primarily the California
exporter and local consumer.  Importers with discretionary cargoes can
avoid the San Francisco Bay Area and the Port of Oakland entirely, and already
often do, leaving only those imports that are for consumption in Northern
California left to bear these costs along with captive California
exports.  It should come as no surprise that this increase is widely opposed
by a diverse array of agriculture interests – the captive ratepayer who must
ultimately cover these cost increases.

Pilots should earn incomes commensurate
with the importance of their job – but we certainly can’t endorse the idea that
this monopoly is somehow in financial distress.  Quite the contrary, since
the Pilots in San Francisco are part of a licensing system that operates
nowhere else in California and is largely of their own creation, they ought to
have looked in the mirror before  bringing
complaints to Sacramento –  and, with all
of the perks, it is hard to believe that they’re doing anything but great.