In the very near future a piece of legislation (S.5746/A.8675) will come before New York Gov. George Pataki for his signature. This legislation would change the century-old method of selecting three of the six New York State Pilot Commissioners.

The selection of these three commissioners is currently the responsibility of the New York City Chamber of Commerce and Partnership. Selection is based on recommendations from the Harbor and Shipping Advisory Committee, which includes maritime-industry interests that are members of the chamber. This long-standing process has insured maritime-industry input into the composition of a board whose decisions affect the safety and economy of the Port of New York.The legislation seeks to eliminate that input and, instead, make these commissioners political appointees. This must not happen.

As a member of the chamber/partnership and the Harbor and Shipping Advisory Committee for over 10 years, I am disappointed that the chamber is walking away from this responsibility. I am also disgusted with the manner in which this occurred.

This legislation was the brainchild of the president of the chamber, Robert Kiley. It was drafted without consulting the members of the HSAC and without advising the chamber's own board of directors.

Chamber members and representatives of the Maritime Association of the Port of New York and New Jersey tried to call Kiley in order to discuss alternatives before this bill went to the legislature. These calls were not returned.

It is hard to believe that Kiley can turn his back on his own membership and the maritime industry in New York without the knowledge of his own board of directors. It is inconceivable that he might, almost single-handedly, end a century-old process without any discussion of an alternative that can maintain the industry input that has served the maritime community and the state of New York so well for so long.

For there is an alternative. This selection process should be the responsibility of the Maritime Association of the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The association's membership is the maritime industry. It has all the expertise necessary to make excellent selections and, as a member of the board of directors, I can attest to the association's desire to assume this task.

The board of directors of the Maritime Association believes that the maritime industry should continue to have input into the selection of pilot commissioners. Hopefully, the governor will meet with the Maritime Association before signing off on this legislation in order to accomplish that end.

Our industry needs the governor's support. We've obviously lost the chamber's.


Brightwaters, N.Y.

Capt. Louis Bettinelli is president of the Interport Pilots and a director of the Maritime Association of the Port of New York and New Jersey.