The Board of Pilot Commissioners has rejected an invitation to a joint meeting with the Port of Galveston’s governing board to discuss a dispute about fog delays, instead inviting wharves trustees to one of its meetings.
Pilot board Chairman Kenny Koncaba rejected the request in a reply to a letter Port Director Rodger Rees sent at the behest of the Wharves Board of Trustees requesting a joint meeting.
“While I too look forward to a good working relationship with the port and the wharves board, I believe the better course would be for a representative or representatives of the wharves board to appear at the next Board of Pilot Commissioners meeting in order to present to the board all information related to the ‘various maritime issues, business and safety matters’ as referenced in your letter,” Koncaba said.
Wharves board trustees Wednesday said they hoped to discuss the matter at their Tuesday board meeting.
Trustee Elizabeth Beeton said she hopes trustees consider accepting Koncaba’s invitation to send representatives to the Board of Pilot Commissioners’ April 5 meeting.
“This isn’t discussion back-and-forth like it would be in a joint meeting, but if this is the format they prefer, I don’t have a problem starting there,” Beeton said.
The wharves board in January tasked Rees with delivering a letter to the pilot board requesting a joint meeting after multiple attempts to schedule one had failed.
Koncaba in his response cited compliance with the Texas Open Meetings Act and a desire not to act in private as reasons for declining the joint meeting.
Pilot board officials Wednesday declined to elaborate much on what those concerns were.
“The letter stands for itself,” pilot board Secretary Brad Boney said. “It was composed with advice from counsel.”
Assistant Attorney General John Langley, who represents the pilot board, declined to comment Wednesday about the letter, saying his office prohibits him from making media statements.
The two boards have been involved in a controversy that began with concerns from cruise line operators about pilots using fog delays to retaliate against shippers who complained about a sharp increase in pilot rates.
The five-member Board of Pilot Commissioners oversees the 16-member pilots association that charges tariffs on foreign-flagged oil tankers, cruise ships or other vessels piloted into or out of Galveston County ports.
The association does not face competition and has the authority to decide when it is safe to guide ships in and out of ports.
The monopoly is allowed because pilots vying for business might otherwise take unnecessary risks and cause unsafe waterways.
Koncaba’s letter, dated Feb. 8, came after the last pilot board meeting in which commissioners declined to take action on a joint meeting, citing an apparent lack of consensus among the wharves board members as a reason why they were hesitant to agree.
Commissioners pointed to wharves board Chairman Ted O’Rourke giving pilot commissioners a letter on port letterhead in October 2017 without prior approval as an example of the apparent lack of consensus.
Wharves trustees later chastised their chairman for sending the letter without board approval, but acknowledged the issues needed to be addressed.