Boskalis once again defeated by pilots of Taranto, and Fedepiloti rejoices
The Council of State confirmed the Regional Administrative Court's judgement: regardless of whether a ship makes always the same manoeuvre, assistance is compulsory when other vessels are met inside the port (i.e. always)
While the Antitrust Authority advocated more competition concerning the current structure of technical-nautical services in Italian ports, the Council of State consolidated the status quo by intervening in Boskalis’ appeal.
The Dutch company appealed against the Regional Administrative Court’s judgement of July 2017 as it held that the operations carried out by its dredgers and barges in the port of Taranto fell within the scope of application of the exemption from the compulsory pilotage service provided for by the ministerial decree of 1996 on pilotage in the Ionic port, which established that in “the port of Taranto pilotage is compulsory for inbound and outbound transits of ships”.
“It is clear – the panel of judges wrote – that the exemption related to working ships is subject to the condition that during works the ship does not move, thus it does not require the pilot’s assistance. On the contrary, when it sails and meets other units or it manoeuvres inside the port, the ship needs pilotage like any other vessel”.
According to the Council of State – this being the most important passage of a significant judgement for this sector, which could constitute case law, as Fedepiloti pointed out – compulsory pilotage does not depend only on the frequency of the same manoeuvre carried out by a ship, thus on the knowledge of the port on the part of its crew, but especially on the meeting with other vessels: “Therefore, the Regional Administrative Court’s interpretation of the aforesaid rule of the Decree (Article 3) is to be shared as the safe navigation and mooring requirements do not result so much from the possible inexperience or from the insufficient knowledge of the port on the part of the master or of his pilot, as from the fact that several ships are (or can be) simultaneously carrying out manoeuvres in the narrow maritime area in question, with crossing routes. Therefore, their movements and positions must necessarily be known to a single body coordinating the actions of single pilots in order to avoid accidental collisions that, as recent facts proved, are always possible”.
In this case, also Boskalis’ second ground of appeal was rejected. As a matter of fact, the Dutch company objected “that the Administration unlawfully changed its mind, regarding pilotage service with onboard pilot as necessary after having considered the previous VHF call as sufficient”. However, the Council of State argued that this was not the case and explained that, in any case, “pilotage could not have been provided to the ship Causeway by VHF since it did not meet” the tonnage requirement (max 2,000 tons) set by the aforesaid ministerial decree in order to use VHF pilotage services in the port of Taranto.