Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Tug Boat for Neah Bay

"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Sept. 21, 2006 06-192

Rescue tug service starts Nov. 1

OLYMPIA - This year, rescue tug service in the Strait of Juan de Fuca will start Nov. 1. A rescue tug has been stationed at Neah Bay during the past eight winters to help assist disabled ships before they drift onto rocks and spill oil. The Department of Ecology (Ecology) oversees the rescue tug contract. Winter storms present a higher risk of oil spills from the more than 7,000 tankers and cargo ships traveling through the strait each year. Cargo ships can carry up to 1 million gallons of cargo oil, and oil barges or tankers can carry up to 33 million gallons of oil. Since 1999, the rescue tug has assisted 29 disabled ships plying state waters. "Preventing oil spills is our primary mission because we know that even under the best of conditions, oil is difficult to clean up but impossible to contain in the bad weather our coast often experiences," said Dale Jensen, who manages Ecology's spills program. The state Legislature provided $1.4 million with the goal of providing 200 days of service for the 2006-07 winter season. For about $6,000 a day Foss Maritime was slated to provide rescue tug coverage this winter. In August, the tug and barge company notified Ecology that the company is experiencing a shortage of tugs in the Pacific Northwest and exercised its option to opt out of its 2006-07 contract for the month of October. Foss will station a rescue tug at Neah Bay in November and December. Ecology sought to find coverage for October 2006. The department, however, received a single bid for $22,500 a day to place a rescue tug at Neah Bay. "Unfortunately the bid was too high. If we had accepted it, we would have been in the position of spending nearly all the money earmarked for the tug in three months - with some of the worst winter months to come," said Dale Jensen, who manages Ecology's spills program. "The current contract issue highlights the need to find a stable, long-term funding source for a rescue tug," Jensen said that during October 2006, Ecology will have the option to charter a tug if a major storm hits the coast. Ecology also will solicit bids seeking rescue tug service for winter 2007 and the next 2007-08 winter season. A major spill could cost millions to respond and cleanup and hurt Washington's fishing and shellfish industries, further endanger salmon runs, kill birds and marine mammals, ruin public beaches, halt vessel traffic, and dampen tourism, said Jensen."