April Commerce Club Featuring Captain Reginald McKamie, Sr., UNS (Ret.), Chairman, Pilot Board

Port Bureau News ,

McKamie Presents a Pilot Board Snapshot

Captain Reginald McKamie presented an overview of the mandate and work of the Board of Commissioners of Harris County (“the Pilot Board”) at the Port Bureau’s virtual Commerce Club on April 8. McKamie was appointed as chairman of the Pilot Board by Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston City Council in 2020.

Texas lawmakers created a new and independent Pilot Board, with exclusive jurisdiction over the piloting of vessels in Harris County ports, in 2019. With McKamie as chair, the Pilot Board is comprised of two commissioners appointed by the Houston City Council; two commissioners appointed by the Harris County Commissioners Court; one commissioner appointed by the Pasadena City Council, and two commissioners appointed by the governor of Texas.

In his presentation, McKamie introduced each individual filling these positions. These are Roland Garcia, shareholder at Greenberg Traurig LLP; Frances Castañeda Dyess, president of the East End Chamber of Commerce; Michel Bechtel, mayor of Morgan’s Point; Brad Hance, president, MECO Inc.; Parris Beverly, adjunct/visiting professor, Texas Southern University; Darrell Morrison, president, HTS Inc. Consultants; Bruce Oakley, attorney at Hogan Lovells, US, LLP; and, Jon Keeney, mayor of Taylor Lake Village. Pilot Board Executive Director, Captain M. Tyler Gavis, serves as Secretary and Compliance Coordinator to the Pilot Board.

“As you can see, we have a very diverse board and one that is well-trained in different areas of the port and of the city,” said McKamie.

McKamie recapped the 11 duties entrusted to the Pilot Board, including reviewing applications, recommendations for pilot renewals, and investigations. These duties are handled by two committees of Pilot Board. These are the Application Review Committee, chaired by Captain Stephen Polk and the Investigation & Recommendation Committee, Captain David Foret, Jr., chairman.

After highlighting the work of the Houston Pilots, the format of webinar switched to a Q&A style interview, hosted by Port Bureau president, Captain Bill Diehl.

Q. What might the port of Houston look like in the next ten years, specifically in the areas of economic strength, environmental stewardship, and community relationship?

A. That is a very broad question. I believe all the maritime community wants the port of Houston to be the most competitive in the nation and to bring in a lot of vessels, containers, cargo, and petrochemical cargo to make the port the best in the nation. I see that as being a fundamental hallmark that we need to work on, but, more importantly, we need to make sure the port is safe and that the port stays open for traffic.

Q. When making the transition from the Port Houston Commissioners over to the new Pilot Board, one of the things that came up was how the new Pilot Board would be funded. To get things rolling, the Houston Pilots fronted the cost of administration for two years. What is your comment for funding going forward? It seems to be the elephant in the room.

A. It absolutely is. First, I’d like to thank Commissioner Roland Garcia, Frances Castañeda Dyess, and the other members of the transition committee that worked so hard in getting us to where we are today. What I see us doing is working with the Pilots and shippers to formulate what we are going to do. Nobody can believe we can do this for free, so we have to have a user group to fund this. There is legislation that says we can do what is necessary and other ports have the same kind of language. What I envision is getting together with the maritime community and figuring out the best way to do a user fee – whether it’s a fee the shippers pay per transit of a vessel or a fee based on tonnage.

The Pilots have been very gracious because they understand the need to have the Pilot Board up and running. They need their licenses to the governor and everything signed off on. But for them to continue that [administrative funding], I don’t see us doing that. One thing I will note – and I am open to hearing everything from everybody about it – if the Pilots continue doing it, it’s going to ultimately end up as a rate increase for the Pilots, with the users paying it that way. I think it is much better if the users pay it on a per use basis. But I’m one vote on the Board, and we will listen to all the maritime interests – the unions, the shippers, the Pilots – and a decision will then be made.

Additional topics discussed included the work of navigation and legislation subcommittees, Coast Guard liaison, diversity objectives, and maritime education engagement.

Watch the full Pilot Board snapshot presentation here.

Thank you to our sponsors:

Enterprise Products Partners    Kinder Morgan  •   Houston Marriott South    Houston Pilots    Intercontinental Terminals Company   Moran Shipping Agencies, Inc.     Regions Bank   Targa Resources    West Gulf Maritime Association