Shippers mull how to pay for Neah Bay rescue tug
As a July 1 deadline looms for the commercial shipping industry to take over operation of an emergency tug in Neah Bay, Clallam County, there still no agreement between various carriers on a formula for cost sharing.
On July 1, the commercial shipping industry in Washington is required by law to take over operation of an emergency rescue tug in Neah Bay, Clallam County.
The tug is designed to assist ships that go adrift in the treacherous entry to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.
But how to allocate the costs among various carriers has not been resolved. Since negotiations began last summer, a philosophical divide has kept oil and cargo shippers from an agreement.
Frank Holmes, Northwest manager for the Western State Petroleum Association, has been making the case that non-oil-carrying vessels are just as likely to need help from a tugboat as oil-carrying vessels, so the assessment should be based largely on the number of vessels passing through the strait.
Mike Moore, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, said the Neah Bay tug is all about preventing oil spills, which relates to the amount of oil or fuel on board a disabled vessel. He says cargo ships in Puget Sound have never spilled oil except during fuel transfers, which are subject to other requirements.
Holmes and Moore are leading the negotiations to allocate the costs of the Neah Bay tug among various user groups. Holmes represents owners of oil tankers and barges. Moore's constituency includes a larger number of non-tanker vessels, including those carrying cargo, passengers and fish-processing plants.
According to Moore, a study of oil-spill risk by the state's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee found cargo vessels accounted for less than 15 percent of the risk. Still, his owners have jointly offered to pay 30 percent of the cost. Using a different analysis, the oil shippers started by negotiating for a lower percentage but now are offering to pay 50 percent of the costs, he said.
"We still have a 20 percent differential that we need to work out between now and July 1," Moore said.
Beyond the division by industry sector, assessments for individual vessels must be worked out. Vessel size and design are other factors to consider, Holmes and Moore agreed in a progress report to the Legislature.
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