Maritime safety gets left high and dry

PI OPINION
Letters to the Editor

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

GROUNDED SHIPS

We had much to be thankful for this holiday weekend. Those of us who don’t want rusting ships “adorning” our coast such as the New Carissa in Oregon and the Jessica in the Galapagos Islands, are thankful for the Washington Legislature and Department of Ecology. Due to their foresight and vigilance (along with the heroism of the salvagers), the Barbara Foss was able to assist the oil tanker Atigun Pass, which broke its tow 100 miles west of the Columbia River.

Despite forecasts of one of the worst storms in years, the Coast Guard did not close the infamously dangerous Columbia River bar to traffic.

Despite the financial and environmental costs associated with a slow response to the New Carissa, the Coast Guard waited more than a day before seeking additional tug support.

By the time the Coast Guard sought additional tugs, the tanker had drifted to within 20 miles of the coast and the Columbia River was unpassable. The first tug on scene was the state-funded Barbara Foss from Neah Bay, one of the few ports on the coast not located in a river mouth and therefore open year round.

Despite letters to Congress from Gov. Gary Locke and the Makah Tribal Council, they have been told by Sen. Patty Murray that there is no money for the tug, but there is for homeport security. The state’s budget forecast makes the likelihood of continued state funding unlikely.

When Warren Magnuson represented Washington state in the U.S. Senate, he promoted trade and maritime safety with equal vigor. Given our current representation in Congress, it looks as if we may have to get used to the sight and impact of ships grounded against our shores. They will serve as monuments to our lost priorities.

Fred Felleman
Northwest director
Ocean Advocates

~ by fredfelleman on November 28, 2001.

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