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Today's pilot situation has been on my mind for a while. There is such a shortage
of pilots in the maritime industry that many are opting for trip status and naming
their own wages; demanding this and that like they are stuck up, spoiled superstars
or something. Where will it end? Not too long ago a pilot made the comment:
"$ 430.00 isn't even worth me leaving my driveway". I remember when I first got my
pilots license, the standard rate was $130.00 a day. Harbor work was five dollars
less a day. That was in 1990. In 97 the base pay for the small to medium sized
boats (600-1200 hp) I worked on was around $ 200.00 a day. Between 97 and
2004 the wages slowly went up till they seemed to peak at around $300.00 a day.
That’s over a one hundred percent increase in just 7 years. Wow!  Who would have
ever thought the pay would shoot up so high. Not a bad living considering more
than half of the pilots don't even have a high school diploma. Pilots these days are
demanding anywhere from $430.00 to $ 500.00 a day.
 I had been out of the industry for awhile due to back surgery and when I came
back this is what I've found:
Pilots that under normal circumstances probably wouldn't even be called because
of their attitude and poor work ethic are in high demand. They don't even show up
for work unless they get a wild hair to do so and still expect to be respected. They
don't even do what they are paid to do which is manage the crew, take care of the
boat and perform whatever maintenance and repairs that they can, and deliver the
tows safely and efficiently, without bitching and, or demanding a bonus for doing
their job for which they are getting paid for already. One thing these overpaid prim-
donnas seem to be forgetting is that, sure, the companies will cave in sooner or
later and pay more because they do not have much of a choice, but they are also
passing the added expense along to their customers. Not your problem huh. Maybe
not now, but do you remember what happened to the paper companies in
Alabama? The steel mills and auto plants in Detroit, Pittsburg? The North American
free trade agreement? Do you have any inkling why that happened? The fate and
direction of those industries were directed by the same deadly sin that will destroy
the marine industry. GREED!!! If we, as pilots, continue to drive up our daily rates,
the costs of shipping cargo via barge will continue to go up. Shipping cargo on the
waterways was always the cheapest form of transportation for product that wasn't in
a rush to get to where it was going. But these days the trains are able to compete
with us, there are more and more trucks on the road everyday, they are being
chosen more and more because the marine industry just is not the deal it once was.
If this keeps on, instead of investing in the inland waterways infrastructure like they
should, government and business will concentrate on the highways and rail to
accommodate their cargo; the waterways will be left to a slow death.
 What are you going do when the tide turns and there are finally more pilots than
there are boats operating? Do you think that the owners of these towing companies
will not remember people who extorted them and took advantage of their situation?
Then it will be, "why won’t anyone hire me? What did I do to deserve this?" The
answer of course will be everything. You reap what you sow. I'm a firm believer of
what comes around goes around. It is our responsibility to be professional and
knowledgeable about the direction of our industry, our livelihood. Hey I like to make
as much money as possible just like the next guy, but I also do not feel that $430.00
will not get me out of my driveway. That is so ridiculous. I also do what I can on the
boat, maintenance wise, to save the company money, I don't bitch about having to
actually do my job for which I'm getting paid. I don't get a wild hair and jump ship on
a moments notice because I can get away with it due to the desperation facing
companies. I show up for crew change when I'm supposed to. What I do used to be
called being an adult and facing my responsibilities. These days people seem to
call it an inconvenience, but your day in the sun will surely come, then let’s see how
important you really are my friends.