Shipping companies are being forced to pay a hike in harbour charges at a Cornish port to help plug a deficit of around £200 million in a pension pot for river pilots.
Falmouth Harbour Commissioners (FHC) said they would increase harbour charges for commercial shipping to help offset the port's contribution to the deficit in the Pilots National Pension Fund (PNPF).
The PNPF is an industry-wide pension fund that has performed poorly.
In Falmouth's case, the deficit allocated is almost £3 million and is expected to be repaid over the next 10 years.
Following a High Court ruling in 2010, the trustee of the fund has had the power to demand contributions from Competent Harbour Authorities (CHA) across the UK – including Falmouth – that have employed or authorised pilots, in order to make up the shortfall.
The trustee has now provided a liability valuation to CHAs. For example on a 70,000 tonne vessel docking at Falmouth there will be an increase of £450 in harbour dues on the existing £950 charge.
Captain Mark Sansom, chief executive and Harbour Master at FHC, said the increase has been on the cards for a while.
He said: "We've known for some time that there would be a deficit recovery plan but it is only recently that we have learned what our contribution is expected to be.
"Our view is that this issue is not of our making and in common with many other ports and harbours we have written to the trustee urging them to adopt a longer repayment period.
"However, whether this is successful of not, it is clear that an increase in harbour charges will be necessary to help fund the deficit repayments.
"We have therefore written to our commercial shipping customers to inform them of increases in charges which will take effect from 1st January 2013."
He added: "Increasing charges is not something that we have done lightly but we felt we had no choice but to take immediate action."