(Olympia, Wash.; April 14, 2008) – A state-funded emergency response tug will be stationed at Neah Bay, Wash., ready to prevent oil spills 365 days a year under a contract extension agreement signed today between the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) and Crowley Maritime Corporation (Crowley).
The extension agreement marks the first time that a response tug will be stationed at Neah Bay for a full year of service.
During the 2008 legislative session, Gov. Chris Gregoire and lawmakers provided $3.7 million for emergency response tug service. Under the contract, Crowley will station a high-horsepower, ocean-going tug at Neah Bay from July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009.
“Every year, thousands of vessels carrying billions of gallons of oil make transits through the Strait of Juan de Fuca,” Gregoire said. “If we had a major oil spill in the strait, the costs to our environment, our economy and our quality of life could be astronomical. We must do all we can to protect our pristine shorelines. Keeping a response tug at Neah Bay year-round helps fulfill that mission.”
Gregoire said that the current state level of funding is enough to keep the tug at Neah Bay for a year – until a permanent, stable funding source can be established.
Crowley took over the state contract to keep a response tug ready at Neah Bay during winter seasons beginning Jan. 1, 2007, but public funding ran out in early March 2008. Under the extension, the maritime company will provide a year of tug service at the same rate set in the 2007 contract – $8,500 a day plus fuel costs.
“Crowley is pleased to be part of the Department of Ecology’s and our state’s effort to protect our marine environment,” said Scott Hoggarth, general manager of marine services for Crowley in Seattle. “This proactive measure affords our communities peace of mind that the pristine waters of Washington State and our coastal neighbors will continue to be protected. Crowley appreciates the partnership and support of the Makah Tribe in this endeavor as well. It is gratifying to be part of this environmentally conscious measure, taking a preventative position when it comes to protecting our coastal and inland waters, and shorelines.”
Since 1999, state-funded response tugs stationed at Neah Bay have kept disabled ships from drifting onto rocks and causing major oil spills during the stormy winter months. The tugs have stood by or assisted 40 ships that were disabled or had reduced maneuvering or propulsion.
Since 2002, state lawmakers earmarked $1.4 million out of Ecology’s annual budget to provide response tug service for about 200 days during the harsh Olympic coast winter season.
“The state Legislature has long recognized the importance of having a tug stationed at Neah Bay,” said state Sen. Harriet Spanel. “We have an obligation to do all we can to prevent oil spills in one of the most environmentally sensitive and valuable areas of Washington. However, the state money is only for a single year of service. We must find a stable, long-term funding source so we can continue to keep this critical, proven resource.”
Spanel said a major spill could severely hurt Washington’s fishing and shellfish industries, further endanger salmon runs, kill birds and marine mammals, ruin public beaches, and disrupt Washington’s economy.
There are nearly 9,000 tankers and cargo ships transiting in and out of the strait each year. Cargo ships can carry more than two million gallons of cargo oil and oil tankers can transport up to 36 million gallons of crude oil and other petroleum products.
Beaches in the Olympic National Park, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, three national wildlife refuges, and tribal lands are directly at risk for major oil spills since they are adjacent to the shipping route.
Jacksonville-based Crowley Maritime Corporation, founded in San Francisco in 1892, is a privately held family and employee-owned company that provides diversified transportation and logistics services in domestic and international markets by means of six operating lines of business: Puerto Rico/Caribbean Liner Services, Latin America Liner Services, Logistics Services, Petroleum Services, Marine Services and Technical Services. Offered within these operating lines of business are the following services: liner container shipping, logistics, contract towing and transportation; ship assist and escort; energy support; salvage and emergency response; vessel management; vessel construction and naval architecture; government services, and petroleum and chemical transportation, distribution and sales. Additional information about Crowley its subsidiaries and business units may be found on the Internet at www.crowley.com.
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