LETTERS

PILOTS ARE NEEDED

ON THE GREAT LAKESI am a marine pilot on the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System and am writing in response to Dave Juday's column titled ''Losing Jobs at Great Lakes Ports'' (Sept. 24, Page 7A). I agree with many of his comments but am troubled by his inadequate knowledge of pilotage and pilots.

I don't know what he means by ''patronage pilotage'' and ''special pilots.'' I can only assume he refers to U.S. or Canadian registered pilots, who are required by law to be on board vessels sailing under a foreign flag, and on U.S. or Canadian-flagged vessels used in foreign commerce primarily outside the Great Lakes.

He calls pilotage cumbersome, costly and unnecessary. Cumbersome is defined as burdensome, unwieldly or clumsy. Perhaps pilots are hard for him to bear. But they are not unnecessary; since the days of the Phoenicians, pilots have navigated safely through waters that could be dangerous to ship owners and to vessel masters who are unfamiliar with the area they are transiting.

If Mr. Juday means the service is costly, he may have a point. But I would note that pilots on the Great Lakes have the lowest compensation rate of any pilots in the United States.

Mr. Juday argues the new navigation technology makes pilots redundant. New technology, such as global positioning by satellite, is of great help in determining a vessel's position, but it does not make a navigational system foolproof.

Crews nowadays are mostly made up of Third World nationals. Flag-of-convenience vessels are crewed by mariners from up to a dozen different nationalities. I was on board the M/V Helena Oldendorff, which had a crew of 26 people from 14 nations. This is not safe, believe me.

Global positioning by satellite does not provide communication between vessels maneuvering in close quarters or crossing each others' paths; pilots do.

There are too many potential navigational problems to omit pilots from vessels transiting the Great Lakes system. Our ports, the rivers, the Straits of Mackinac, the Pelee Passage, fishing grounds and ferries crossing Lake Ontario and heading to Mackinac Island all would be put in danger if Mr. Juday's ideas were followed.

Capt. Thomas J. Schnell

Clarkston, Mich.

TRUCK SAFETY GROUP

NOT FUNDED BY RAILROADS

Your Sept. 10 article titled ''Rail-truck battle spills south of the border'' (Page 2B) requires a response. As a member of Crash (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways), I disagree with parts of the story.

The article labels Crash as a racist anti-truck group. Actually it is a diverse group that lobbies for truck safety. I joined the group because my 19-year-old son, Patrick Virtue, was killed in a crash involving an improperly operated and poorly lighted truck. Crash has advocated for many of my beliefs regarding highway and truck safety.

Your story indicates Crash is ''funded by railroads and their suppliers.'' I have been told by Crash officials that this is not true. However, if you have proof of your allegations please send it to me.

Frankly, I hope Crash will be in the face of any person or trucking group that does not advocate highway safety.

Ellie Collins

Bethania, N.C.

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