Washington to bill ship owners for tugboat

Business News – Local News
Friday, March 6, 2009, 2:57pm PST | Modified: Friday, March 6, 2009, 3:25pm

Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) – by Steve Wilhelm

Washington’s Legislature, with support from the maritime industry, voted Thursday to transfer the cost of a rescue tug at Neah Bay from taxpayers to ship owners.

The vote was 62-35 in the House and 44-4 in the Senate. The governor is expected to sign the bill.

Taxpayers have been funding rescue tugs at Neah Bay since 1999, said Fred Felleman, Seattle-based consultant for the environmental organization Friends of the Earth.

The tugs are intended to catch disabled tankers or other large vessels before they run aground, and thus prevent large oil spills in the protected waters of the San Juan Islands and surrounding areas. The tugs are based at Neah Bay to shorten response time, which otherwise is too long from Port Angeles or Seattle.

Felleman said the vote grew out of a new willingness by the maritime industry to share the cost, this year about $3.5 million.

“Now they’re saying, we’ll pay our fair share,’” he said.

During the past 10 years the Neah Bay tug has been called to help 41 ships, several of them tankers or tanker barges.

Any ship over 300 gross tons will be required to contribute to the fund, according to the legislation. The new system will take effect in July of 2010.

“We will pay one more year out of the public dole, to give the industry time to transition,” Felleman said.

Still to be negotiated is an agreement with the Canadian government, to get Canadian vessels to assume some of the cost.

Felleman pointed out that March 24 is the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Alaska. A recent Alaska study concluded that a rescue tug now stationed there has reduced the chance of a major spill by 70 percent.

All contents of this site © American City Business Journals Inc. All rights reserved.

~ by fredfelleman on March 7, 2009.

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