Case Studies

Florida Alliance of Maritime Organizations

Antiquated statutes which licensed and regulated the harbor piloting of vessels in the state’s ports allowed for Florida’s harbor pilot system to operate similarly to a monopoly for nearly 35 years. In 2008 alone, inflated harbor pilot costs accounted for more than $50 million in fees – borne by cargo and cruise operators. Ultimately, these costs are passed along to consumers who purchase goods transported through Florida’s ports or vacationers who cruise through state waters. With challenging economic times, high fuel costs and low consumer spending, these fees became a financial burden for many international shipping companies and cruise lines conducting business in Florida. To combat the monopolistic nature of Florida’s harbor pilot system, a coalition of shipping and cruise companies joined forces under the Florida Alliance of Maritime Organizations, Inc. (FAMO) to promote all measures necessary to enhance the maritime industry’s presence in the State of Florida.

Under the non-competitive harbor pilot system in Florida, vessels entering and exiting Florida’s ports must use one of approximately 100 pilots. An open, market-driven system would correct inequity and result in new public revenues for Florida, jobs within related industries, and lower costs for consumers. Established as a non-profit organization in 2009, FAMO sought to actively participate in Florida’s regulatory and policy development processes that impact the state’s substantial maritime industry. That same year, CoreMessage was asked to supplement FAMO’s efforts by informing the public about the negative economic impacts of the state’s regulatory harbor pilot process in attempts to modernize its structure.

To highlight the need to modernize Florida’s harbor pilot system amongst the state’s elected officials, CoreMessage planned and executed a multifaceted communications campaign which included earned media, paid media, message development, public affairs coordination and message development.

Thanks to the efforts of the FAMO communications campaign, the 2009 and 2010 Legislative Sessions brought positive change in the harbor pilot system. As a result of our 2009 efforts, the Florida’s General Appropriation Act included proviso language that allowed the Office of (OPPAGA) to review Florida’s harbor pilot system. In 2010, the findings of OPPAGA’s report were released to lawmakers and showed the real need for reform in harbor pilots’ regulation.

Specific outcomes included: earned media outreach generated more than 3.2 million media impressions. The economic impacts study media teleconference was covered in four major media markets in Florida and a dozen reporters from daily newspapers and trade publications alike participated in the call; paid media efforts between the two online media advertisements allowed for more than 600,000 page views of FAMO’s website.

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