Earn $400 per hour in a government-regulated job

“World’s largest Viking ship, headed to Duluth, needs to pay $400K or turn around” has some good career tips for young Americans:

Red tape, bureaucracy and an unexpected $400,000 bill threaten to doom the Draken Harald Hårfagre’s visit to America.

It wasn’t the reception that the world’s largest Viking ship was expecting after leaving Norway in April to cross the Atlantic and head as far west as Duluth, just in time for Tall Ships Duluth 2016, where it’s one of the event’s marquee attractions.

Without $400,000 to pay for a pilot to guide it through the Great Lakes, the Draken will head home to Norway and miss a series of cities eagerly awaiting its visit through the Great Lakes.

The Draken set sail in April and was under the impression that it would not need a pilot to sail the Great Lakes because it was less than 35 meters long. The Draken is 34.5 meters (115 feet). However, that ruling applied only to its passage through Canadian waters. Once the ship left Snell Lock west of Montreal, it entered international waters, which are under jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast Guard, which requires pilots. That is when the Draken was informed it had to have a pilot, which can cost up to $400 per hour.

The pilot guild explains how it works:

The Office of Great Lakes Pilotage, U.S.C.G., determines the number of pilots required for each U.S. Great Lakes district. … Permanent positions become available as pilots retire and when the Office of Great Lakes Pilotage determines an increase in the number of pilots is required.

I.e., the government decides how many Americans will be allowed to work at this job. federalregister.gov has a guide to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2016 process:

Step 4 sets each pilot’s target compensation at $326,114, with a total target compensation of $12,066,225 for the 37 pilots. We set these targets after identifying 2013 Canadian Great Lakes Pilotage Authority (GLPA) compensation, with adjustments for currency exchange and inflation, as the best benchmark for our 2016 rates.

Plainly not every young American can expect to earn $400/hour or $326,114 per year, but to me this is a good example of the superiority of government or government-regulated careers compared to careers in private enterprise.


13 thoughts on “Earn $400 per hour in a government-regulated job

  1. Much better than the rates set for ATC, although in that case the government is actually footing the bill. So if you work FOR them, the compensation is not as good as when you work for private entities with the government setting the price.

    (I agree the boat needs the pilot. I’ve SCUBA dived a bunch of wrecks in the Great Lakes. I think it is deceptive up there.)

  2. Yes, a rent seeking sinecure is ideal work if you can get it. The problem is that the number of such sinecures is by nature very limited – the artificially limited # of slots is what makes the position valuable in the 1st place. Basically someone has to die for a spot to open up.

    Maybe in Hillary’s America, EVERYONE will be granted their very own sinecure – this will solve the problem of falling incomes and bring good high paying jobs like lake pilot to America. The limited # of spots in each category won’t be a problem because we will just invent new categories – diversity pilot, environmental watchdog, etc. That’s how universities work now – the # of academic jobs has remained flat (or has even fallen as classes get farmed out to adjuncts) but there are an endless # of new administrative jobs you can invent. All Hillary needs to do is pass lots and lots of new laws regulating every aspect of human conduct and require businesses to hire professionals to pilot them thru the murky waters of these regulations, and , viola, our jobs problem will be solved!

  3. As for the wrecks, I think a lot of those were due to (formerly) unpredictable winter storms on the lakes (see Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald). On a calm summer’s day, equipped with charts and GPS, I don’t think that there is really much of a risk.

    In any case, shouldn’t the owners, crew and insurers of the Draken get to evaluate the risk? Do you consider yourself to be a safe driver (everyone does)? Wouldn’t you be EVEN SAFER if the government required you to hire a highly skilled (highly paid) chauffeur in order to drive in a dangerous, crowed environment like NYC?

    Wrecks on the bottom of the lakes are numerous because ships rot slowly in the fresh water so wrecks accumulate over time.

  4. State governments require that I hire a driver to put the car onto a ferry, train, or other more difficult-to-navigate space. You might be right about the GPS and VFR sailing. I would say the insurers and owners would get to decide if no other parties were involved, but I am pretty sure that when something goes wrong they radio the US Coast Guard.

    (Are they planning to sail on a calm summer day?)

  5. Phil, what happens if the Draken blocks the shipping lane and stops all commercial traffic in route? I doubt that it is such a crazy possibility to crash into a lock and disable it.

    Also the bill implies 1,000 hours or sailing. Sounds crazy that they need a pilot for over 40 days. I guess that thing is quite slow. Looking for their speed I found this article that estimates their revenues at $1.5 million for the trip. So hard to call that non-commercial.

  6. Tekumse: “what happens if the Draken blocks the shipping lane and stops all commercial traffic in route? I doubt that it is such a crazy possibility to crash into a lock and disable it.” This proves the wisdom of Jackie’s comment, above, in which every driver should be required to hire a chauffeur at government-set wages. Jackie’s idea should be expanded beyond NYC, though, in light of the scenario that you describe. What if a driver crashes on Interstate 95 in New Jersey or Interstate 5 in Southern California and stops all commercial trucks for hours?

    [None of this relates to my original posting, of course, which is about why young Americans should seek a job in which the wage is set by the government. Presumably the wage for a qualified Great Lakes pilot would not be $400/hour in a market economy, which is why the Coast Guard needs to limit the number of people for whom it is legal to work as pilots.]

  7. Funny, I’m just reading _Life on the Mississippi_, in which the pay of pilots is an important topic. Twain was a pilot around 1858. The pilots formed a trade association that eventually became a monopoly with almost government-like powers, and pilot wages grew to be very generous, until the steamboat business was destroyed by the civil war and by competition from other modes of transport.

  8. The Mississippi River pilots out of New Orleans are engaged in a similar state-protected racket. Their compensation is ridiculous and the number of pilots tightly controlled. You practically have to be born into or marry into a pilot family to get one of those jobs.

  9. I saw this ship in Bay City a few weeks ago. Looked good, but I didn’t buy a ticket to go aboard.

    What I didn’t understand about the pilot requirement was that it seemed like they had to have one aboard, even while docked. (accounting for the 1000 hours times $400) It they only had to pay for sailing time, it would have been maybe a tenth of that?

    Jackie: we still get ships wrecked on the Great Lakes every five years or so. So the GPS and better weather reports aren’t a 100% fix.

    philg: for better or worse, it is difficult to meet the requirements for the job. I thought about getting into charter boat fishing on Lake Michigan. That requires a “six-pack” (up to six passengers) CG license. You have to apprentice for at least two years on another commercial vessel before you can start the process for the six-pack one.

    If you fly thru Michigan again, you might consider stopping in Alpena / Thunder Bay for the shipwreck museum there.

  10. I wonder if we can make a collection of these obscure but very well compensated jobs, and sell it as a yearly “U.S. News and World Report” target ranking for gold diggers. Several factors could be included such as “average cumulative 20 year income”, “job security”, “average time away from spouse”, “enrichment factor in child support states”, etc. Not everyone can date and marry a Kobe Bryant or a Britney Spears and cash out like their ex’s. But what if you set your sites on a Great Lakes pilot? There are simply not enough basketball players, surgeons, dermatologists, etc to go around for everyone…

  11. John: If it were actually “difficult to meet the requirements for the job,” why would the Coast Guard need to limit entry in order to ensure that pilots earn at least $326,000/year? If the skills and knowledge were actually scarce and/or extremely difficult to acquire, wouldn’t a free market result in compensation higher than $326,000/year?

    [To the extent that the requirements relate to the salary, presumably you’re saying that the job has much more difficult requirements than the jobs of fighter jet pilot, jet airliner pilot, non-specialist physician, attorney, etc., since all of those jobs pay, on average, less than $326,000/year.]

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