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Cruises Try to Save Port Pilot Concessions

GALVESTON, Texas (CN) - The board overseeing port pilots in Galveston County backed out of its agreement to eliminate a second pilot requirement in exchange for an "agreed tariff," cruise lines say in Galveston County Court.

County pilots allegedly applied for an increased tariff rate for second pilots, the required extra hands who help steer cruise ships entering and leaving Galveston ports.

Royal Caribbean, Carnival and a cruise-line association argued that a second pilot wasn't necessary for ships 1,025 feet or shorter.

They say the pilots agreed to accept an unspecified tariff, thereby eliminating the second pilot requirement.

The Board of Pilot Commissioners unanimously approved the tariff, the cruise lines say, and granted the pilots a 5 percent increase in their tariff rates.

Several parties allegedly objected to the decision, save the concession on second pilots.

"Apparently not content with the course of the proceedings," the pilots withdrew their application for increased tariff rates, the lawsuit states.

This prompted the board to effectively vacate its approval order, the cruise lines say.

They say the board violated the Texas Open Meetings Act by secretly meeting with the pilots to figure out how to increase tariff rates to offset the revenues lost due to the agreed tariff.

The cruise lines want the court to declare their initial deal with the pilots valid and enforceable, and to deem the board's inaction illegal and "wholly unsupported in the face of substantial evidence to the contrary."

They are represented by Justin Renshaw of Fowler Rodriguez Valdes-Fauli in Houston.


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