Texas state legislation enacted in 1923 tasked the members of the Port of Houston Authority’s Port Commission to provide oversight of the Houston Pilots.
In 2019 the legislation was amended to create a new and independent Pilot Board.
The Board of Pilot Commissioners for Harris County Ports, also known as the (“Pilot Board”), is composed of the following Commissioners:
- Two Commissioners appointed by a majority of the City Council of the City of Houston.
- Two Commissioners appointed by a majority of the Harris County Commissioners Court.
- One Commissioner appointed by the City Council of the City of Pasadena, who must reside in the City of Pasadena.
- One Commissioner appointed by a majority of the Harris County Mayors’ and Councils’ Association, who must be a resident in Harris County that is located adjacent to the Houston Ship Channel and has a population of less than 100,000.
- Two Commissioners appointed by the Governor.
- The Chair of the Board appointed jointly by the City of Houston Mayor and City Council and the Harris County Commissioners Court.
The Pilot Board has exclusive jurisdiction over the piloting of vessels in Harris County Ports, including intermediate stops and landing places for vessels on navigable streams wholly or partially located in the board’s jurisdiction.
The Pilot Board shall:
- establish the number of pilots necessary to provide adequate pilot services for each Harris County port;
- accept applications for pilot commissions and certificates and determine whether each applicant meets the qualifications for a pilot;
- submit to the governor lists of applicants the board finds to be qualified for appointment as pilots;
- establish pilotage rates;
- approve the locations for pilot stations;
- establish times during which pilot services will be available;
- hear and determine complaints relating to the conduct of pilots;
- recommend to the governor each pilot whose commission should not be renewed or should be revoked;
- adopt rules and issue orders to pilots or vessels when necessary to secure efficient pilot services;
- institute investigations or hearings or both to consider casualties, accidents, or other actions that violate this chapter; and
- provide penalties to be imposed on a person who is not a pilot for a Harris County port who pilots a vessel into or out of the port if a pilot offered those services to the vessel.
The Pilot Board Executive Director serves as Secretary and Compliance Coordinator to the Pilot Board.
David McNeal serves as General Counsel to the Pilot Board.
The Pilot Board Executive Director works with the Pilot Board appointed Application Review Committee. The committee includes voting members from the Houston Pilots Association, the Port of Houston maritime industry, the Harris County community at large, and the Port of Houston Authority. The committee conducts the preliminary review of Pool applicant, Deputy Branch and Branch Pilot applications.
The Pilot Board Executive Director also works with the Pilot Board appointed Investigation and Recommendation Committee. The committee includes voting members of the Houston Pilots Association, the Port of Houston maritime industry, the Port of Houston Authority, and nonvoting members from the United States Coast Guard. The committee institutes investigations or hearings or both to consider casualties, accidents, or other actions that violate the Act or Rules, and recommend action to the Pilot Board.
Captain Stephen Polk (Director of Maritime Education and Training for the Seamen’s Church Institute) chairs the ARC and Captain David Foret Jr. (President of the ACTion Group Companies) chairs the PBIRC.