Mississippi River pilots want pay raise from $527K to nearly $700K per year

Published 8:51 am Friday, July 31, 2020

A trade union representing river pilots who guide vessels, including cruise ships, from the mouth of the Mississippi River to New Orleans wants a pay increase to get their salaries to match those of other river pilots doing similar work in Louisiana and at ports around the country.

The Crescent River Port Pilots Association Inc. has requested a 28% pay increase to nearly $700,000 annually, arguing its pilots should be paid as much as the river pilots who lead vessels going between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, The Advocate reported Thursday.

It also wants a regular cost of living adjustment and the hiring of nearly 30 additional pilots to prevent accidents caused by fatigue, according to a request addressed to the Louisiana Pilotage Fee Commission, which was obtained by the newspaper.

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The requests come as the shipping industry and economy experience a decline.

Crescent River Port pilots currently make an average of nearly $527,000 annually, while those with the New Orleans-Baton Rouge Steamship Pilots Association, who guide vessels from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, are paid an annual average of about $696,400.

The commission voted Thursday to hire an expert on compensation to review the filing and also selected a retired judge to review it and make a recommendation informing the commission on the request, according to The Advocate.

One cruise line, Pleasure cruises, opposed the pay increase, saying it was “untimely and unreasonable” and “disregards the present economic realities of the shipping industry,” according to a letter to the commission dated Monday.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser supported the request in his own letter to the commission, calling it “necessary to ensure the safe passage of our tourists.”