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Originally published Monday, April 7, 2014 at 9:14 PM

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Tougher rules coming for sales of older vessels

Washington state officials are finalizing rules requiring inspections before ownership can be transferred on boats at least 40 years old and at least 65 feet long.


The Columbian

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State officials are finalizing rules that would put increased scrutiny on the sale of older, longer barges and ships in Washington.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is preparing to roll out many of the new requirements later this year. Among the biggest changes: Anyone who owns a vessel that’s at least 40 years old and 65 feet long will have to provide documentation of a recent inspection before selling it or transferring ownership.

The rules were created by a law approved by the Legislature in 2013. Many of them take effect July 1.

In 2012, the fishing vessel Deep Sea caught fire and sank off Whidbey Island, costing the state $3 million to raise, remove and dispose of the ship; and the botched dismantling of the derelict barge Davy Crockett spilled oil into the Columbia River and prompted a cleanup that cost $22 million.

“That kind of created the political impetus to do something,” said Melissa Ferris, manager of DNR’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program.

The rules pertaining to vessel inspections, which would apply to hundreds of vessels across the state, take effect July 1. Part of the goal is to prevent vessels from becoming derelict or abandoned, according to DNR. The agency hosted a series of open house meetings last week, including one in Vancouver.

Some details are still being worked out. The original legislation stated that vessel inspections must happen within six months of a sale or transfer, for example, but that window may be shortened based on recent comments, said Lisa Randlette, a DNR environmental-resources planner.

The Legislature’s 2013 action also created a voluntary vessel turn-in program allowing the department to dismantle vessels that aren’t yet considered derelict but pose a threat of becoming so. The law authorized $200,000 each year for the program, which could launch this spring, Ferris said.

This year, the Legislature passed another bill that takes vessel-inspection requirements a step further. House Bill 2457 would prohibit the sale of an “unseaworthy” vessel if the inspection finds that its value is less than the cost to repair it. In those cases, the vessel could be sold only for scrap, salvage or restoration. The bill also creates a per-foot “derelict vessel removal fee” and establishes new penalties for failing to register a vessel.



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