SUMMARY OF: A Special Report on the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, Board of Marine Pilots, Sunset Review, October 13, 2006.

Purpose of the Report

In accordance with Titles 24 and 44 of the Alaska Statutes (sunset legislation), we have reviewed the activities of the Board of Marine Pilots (BMP or the board) to determine if there is a demonstrated public need for its continued existence and if it has been operating in an efficient and effective manner. As required by AS 44.66.050(a), this report shall be considered by the committee of reference during the legislative oversight process in determining whether BMP should be reestablished. Currently, under AS 44.66.010(a)(1), the board will terminate on June 30, 2007 and will have one year from that date to conclude its administrative operations. Our report objectives were as follows:

  1. To determine whether there is a public need for the board and if its existence should be extended.
  2. To review the board’s major functions of licensing, inspections, and investigations for effectiveness in meeting public need and for efficiency of operation

Report Conclusions

In our opinion, BMP serves an important public purpose. The termination date of BMP should be extended for six years until June 30, 2013.

Under AS 08.03.010(10), BMP will terminate on June 30, 2007. If the legislature does not take action to extend the board’s termination date, then AS 08.03.020 provides the board one year in which to conclude its administrative operations.

The regulation and licensing of qualified marine pilots benefit the public’s safety and welfare as well as protection of the environment. The board provides reasonable assurance that the individuals licensed to pilot passenger and cargo ships in Alaskan waters are qualified to do so. However, over the past four years the board has been hindered in effectively executing its statutory requirement to arbitrate over the rate setting process.

Findings and Recommendations

BMP’s administration of the mandatory drug and alcohol testing is still not consistent with established regulatory standards and needs improvement. Specifically,

  1. BMP should establish more informative and comprehensive reporting requirements so that the marine pilot coordinator (MPC) can confirm that an appropriate number of licensed pilots are consistently being subjected to random testing.
  2. BMP should take a more active role in administering the drug testing program. Procedures and processes should be established through enhanced regulations to clarify the role of the pilot associations in meeting compliance requirements. Additionally, the board, through the MPC should actively monitor the pilot associations.
  3. BMP should propose mandatory random drug testing regulations over trainees and apprentices seeking a Deputy Marine pilot’s license.

Further, BMP should establish procedures to ensure adequate coverage of the marine pilot coordinator’s critical investigation functions during a vacancy or extended periods of absence. The board should also consider changes to continuing professional education. Additionally, the legislature should consider statutory changes to direct the usage of pleasure craft exemption fees.

BMP and the Department need to consider alternatives available to remedy difficulties the board has encountered with rate setting. Rate setting has hindered the efficiency of board operations and has increased legal costs incurred by the State on behalf of the board. Conflicting public policy in statute is as follows:

  1. Inherent in this makeup is a balance of licensed pilots with an equal number of industry members.
  2. The legislature also specifically exempted the board from the Administrative Procedures Act (AS 44.62) resulting in the responsibility of hearing rate setting issues being retained by the board and not automatically assigned to an administrative law judge when there is a dispute.
  3. Application of Alaska’s Executive Branch Ethics Act (AS 39.52) has caused a disruption of the voting balance on rate setting matters.