Tag Archives: Neah Bay

Passion for whales links woman to Sea Shepherd

A Bainbridge Island resident, Izumi Stephens, will join Sea Shepherd in its upcoming campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic, as I describe in a story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

Izumi Stephens

A native of Japan, Izumi will serve as an on-board interpreter for the anti-whaling group. While engaging whalers, Sea Shepherd has an occasional need to converse with Japanese ship captains as well as conveying information to Japanese news reporters.

If you’ve watched “Whale Wars” on television, you know about Sea Shepherd’s highly confrontational approach to the Japanese fleet, often maneuvering its vessels into dangerous positions in front, behind and alongside the massive whaling ships.

Capt. Paul Watson, who heads Sea Shepherd, broke away from Greenpeace in 1977 as he pushed for more severe actions against whaling operations throughout the world. In 1980, “operatives” from his three-year-old organization took credit for sinking the whaling ship Sierra in Lisbon, Portugal — the first of many similar attacks.

Sea Shepherd, which operates throughout the world, has an ongoing connection to the Northwest. Its international headquarters is located in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, and Watson frequently returns to this region.
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Shipping industry poised to operate tug at Neah Bay

A new tugboat, funded by the shipping industry, is about to go on station at Neah Bay, where it will protect the coast and Strait of Juan de Fuca from ships losing thrust or steering. The cost allocation between tank vessels and nontank vessels has been worked out, as I describe in a story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

The Jeffrey Foss, shown here in a tug race, will be stationed at Neah Bay.
Photo courtesy of Foss Maritime

As late as February, there was still a good deal of doubt about how the allocation would be made. But Frank Holmes of the Western States Petroleum Association and Mike Moore of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association both told me that they would somehow reach agreement — because the law required them to. See Kitsap Sun, Feb. 3.

There may still be a number of issues not yet resolved behind the scenes, as mentioned in a December letter (PDF 275 kb) to Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, and Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines. Issues listed at that time included getting vessels not covered by the oil-spill contingency plan to contribute to the cost of the tug and possibly working out a deal where ships bound for Canada would help pay as well.

For now, the tug will be in place with the costs covered. The shipping organizations put the tug contract out to bid. As a result, the Jeffrey Foss will be on station at Neah Bay as of July 1, at which time the Hunter from Crowley Maritime will be relieved of duty.

Will a new Neah Bay tug arrive on schedule?

It was at the end of March last year that the Legislature shifted the burden of paying for a tugboat at Neah Bay to the shipping industry, and the governor signed the bill into law.

At the time, it seemed to me that it would be much easier said than done for various shippers to allocate the cost among themselves. Industry representatives agreed that negotiations would be difficult, as I reported in a Kitsap Sun story last March 31.

The Legislature had looked at a cost-allocation system but decided to allow the industry to work it out themselves. Progress reports were required by Oct. 31 and Dec. 1.

And this is where I may have misunderstood the Legislature’s intent. I thought the idea was that if the shippers failed to put a system in place by the end of last year, then the Legislature would come back and do something this year to ensure no disruption in tug service. By then, the industry would have little room to complain. But that’s not what is happening.

This week, I wrote about progress in those negotiations and learned that the two major groups are still some distance apart. (See Thursday’s Kitsap Sun.) But the Legislature has no intent of stepping in. The law requires that the tugboat be on station before ships can operate in Puget Sound, and everyone seems confident that the law will be followed.

Department of Ecology officials have indicated that penalties for shippers could run to $10,000 a day if the tugboat is not there. (You may review the correspondence on the subject.) Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D- Bainbridge Island, a key player in the bill, told me that the fines would be enough to cover the cost of the tug, so he would allow the process to play out.

Since the shipping industry is generally divided between oil shippers and cargo shippers, the only alternative I can see, if negotiations fail, is to have two tugs at Neah Bay. Of course, that would be ridiculous and a waste of money.

As in many negotiations, these are likely to go down to the wire. Everyone expects a new tug to be in place by July 1.