Before the Board of Investigation breaks up, which is at present sitting on the cases of pilots Flood and Ashby, dismissed for alleged incompetency, it would be of great advantage to two very important interests in this city, the lightermen and the owners of small craft, if the obnoxious question of the liability of vessels employed in the Bay, within the Heads, were brought before the Board, and set at rest.
Having had occasion some time since to chronicle the annoyance to which the masters of those vessels were subjected, and to the irritation produced, we had hoped that some remedial steps would have been taken by the head of the department. In the absence of any such steps we must repeat the Grievance somewhat more in extenso.
For the past two months, lighters trading between Melbourne and Geelong have been compelled to pay pilotage, the claim being founded on the Pilotage Act of April last. which came in force on the 1st of May, and under which, until the middle of October, all coasters were supposed to be exempted.
The act contains the following clause or rider, under the title of exemptions:- " All ships belonging to her Majesty; all ships outfitting to or retiring from the fisheries ; all ships employed in the coasting trade ; all ships regularly trading between any port of Victoria, and of any of the colonies of New South Wales; Van Diemen's Land, New Zealand, Western and Southern Australia, (the master of such ship holding a certificate from the Pilot Board that he is competent to act as pilot to such trader) unless the services of a pilot should have been actually received, and all ships not having actually received the services of a pilot."
The Harbour Master has thought proper under some peculiar construction of this clause, to rule that the Geelong boats are not exempt, and the clearances of all vessels to and from that port have been withheld until the pilotage has been paid. Many rather exciting scenes have taken place at the Custom House in consequence, which have hitherto always ended in the money being paid under the impression that it was an unjust claim. Many complaints were made to the Collector of Customs, and in all cases the parties were informed that he (the Collector) would recommend that the money should be returned. A subsequent application to the President of the Pilot Board has resulted in a certificate for the return of the money on application to the officer at the port at which it was collected, frequently involving the necessity of the laying up of the vessel for two or three days, and a trip by the master to receive the money at the expense of one-half the sum recoverable.
This evil is one causing much irritation in its particular circle, and involving one of the greatest interest in Victoria - the shipping - in very unnecessary delay and expense. We have already had occasion to mention that the average revenue of the Pilot Board is above £15,000 per week, and that for this sum the public are entitled to look for efficiency. This is only the phase of the question : there are others, such as the frequent stranding of vessels through alleged incompetency of the pilots, and the way in which the act is interpreted with respect to inter-colonial traders, to which we shall, if occasion require, make especial reference.- Argus December 22, .
SG & SGTL Vol 12 ; Page 9 ; 8 Jan 1855
Pilot Board - Pilotage.- The payment of pilotage on vessels plying between Melbourne and Geelong is no longer enforced at the Custom house, except in those cases where the services of a pilot are called in. This arrangement will prevent the recurrence of the excitement and irritation which has been so prevalent amongst the owners and masters of small craft.- Argus, January 16th,
SG & SGTL Vol 12 ; Page 23 ; 22 Jan 1855
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