New state contract will in effect cut duty time of Neah Bay rescue tug

Clearly this underscores the need to support Senator Cantwell’s efforts to require the industry, not the taxpayers to fund the tug.  Fred

Article published Jul 13, 2007

By Jim Casey, Peninsula Daily News

NEAH BAY – Washington’s northern Pacific coast and Strait of Juan de Fuca will get about six fewer weeks of protection this fall and winter from the rescue tug Gladiator than usual.

The state Department of Ecology on Thursday announced an extension of its contract with Crowley Marine Services of Jacksonville, Fla., which owns and operates the vessel.

Ecology and Crowley expect to sign the contract early next week, said Ecology spokesman Curt Hart.

It will call for Crowley to receive $8,750 per day – about $1.45 million – which is $250 per day more than last year’s contract.

However, the Legislature did not appropriate costs for fuel, for which Crowley received $1,500 per day last season.

That means the Gladiator will leave Neah Bay sometime in mid-March, Hart said, six weeks sooner than this year’s departure on May 3.Last-minute mission
On that last day, the Coast Guard dispatched the tug to escort the 795-foot Sanko Dynasty, which lost one of its two steering systems off the Washington coast.

The tanker, laden with crude oil, was bound from Singapore to the Tesoro oil refinery at Anacortes.

Moreover, the Legislature has appropriated no money for a tug beyond March 2008, although U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, has included a year-round rescue vessel in the Oil Pollution Prevention and Response Act she proposed late last year.

She also may try to fund a year-round tug in an authorization bill pending in the Senate Fisheries and Coast Guard Subcommittee, where she is the ranking Democrat.

Gov. Chris Gregoire praised Thursday’s announcement of the contract extension.

“The Neah Bay area is sacred to the Makah tribe, and Washington’s coast is a world-class treasure,” she said.’A stopgap measure’
However, long-time environmental consultant Fred Felleman of Seattle faulted the tug’s abbreviated schedule.

“We were hoping to have a long-term contract,” he said Thursday.

“The logic was, the longer the length of the contract, the more days per dollar.”

Felleman also called the pact “a stopgap measure” that “underscores beautifully that the state of Washington shouldn’t be in the tug-contracting business.”

Rather, he said, the maritime industry should fund a year-round tug, he said.

Other state officials echoed the call for a permanent vessel at Neah Bay.

“Last season alone, the Crowley tug was deployed five times,” said Mike Cooper, chairman of the governor’s Oil Spill Advisory Council.

“It is critical we have a rescue tug stationed at Neah Bay,” said Dale Jensen, Ecology’s chief of oil spill prevention, preparedness and response.

“If oil is spilled, the oil is all but impossible to contain, even during the best weather conditions.”Since 1999
A winter-season rescue tug has been stationed at Neah Bay since 1999.

Since then, the tugs – supplied by Foss Maritime of Seattle until this year -aided 34 vessels that were disabled or in distress off the coast or in the Strait.

For its part, Crowley maritime was pleased with the prospect of returning the Gladiator to Neah Bay.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Department of Ecology, Coast Guard, Makah tribe and the maritime community to protect our natural treasures and ships’ crews in the state of Washington,” said Joel Klenck, Crowley’s vice president of West Coast services.________
Reporter Jim Casey can be reached at 360-417-3538 or at jim.casey@peninsuladailynews.com.

~ by fredfelleman on July 13, 2007.

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