In 2017, the new owner of a retired Washington State Ferry arranged to moor the vessel at the Port of Olympia’s Marine Terminal while he arranged to take it to the Caribbean. The Florida businessman had no previous involvement with boats.
Three years later, the Evergreen State Ferry was still at the Port but the owner was gone. In June of 2020, the Port seized the boat. Department of Natural Resources officials with the Derelict Vessel Program (DVP) asked the Port to follow the protocols designed to prevent the vessel becoming derelict, prior to any sale.
The DVP officials wanted the Port to pay for a survey of the 66 year old vessel to determine its seaworthiness. They also wanted the Port to take out insurance that would cover the boat in case the new owner failed to take care of it. DVP also encouraged the Port to vet winning bidders for their ability to maintain a vessel, before finalizing the sale. The Port never responded.
Derelict vessels are a problem
As part of their work, the DVP keeps a list of abandoned and derelict vessels in Washington waters. Some get on the list after being passed from owner to owner until they become worthless.
That was the case with the fishing vessel Deep Sea. The Deep Sea was abandoned by its owner at the Port of Seattle. The Port sold it to a man with no capacity to take care it. Some time later it was abandoned, caught fire and sank. It cost Washington State nearly $5.4 million for clean up and disposal.
When older boats are left to decay they become a major problem, polluting waters, causing environmental damage and costing taxpayers. DNR has a Derelict Vessel Removal Program but it is underfunded and can only remove a portion of the derelict vessels added to our waters each year. They also offer a Vessel Turn-In Program for boat owners to voluntarily surrender boats before they become derelict.
A pilot program to recycle some vessels
In 2021, the legislature authorized a pilot program for recycling derelict wood and fiberglass vessels up to 200 feet long. According to Troy Wood of the Derelict Vessel Program, the pilot will run from July 2021 to July of 2023. The hulls of old boats are sent through a series of pulverizers, separators, and grinders to reduce them to different grades of materials and grinds. These are then sold as commodities to manufacturing industries that can use them.
DNR is working on the pilot with SeaGrant at the UW and as well as the Port of Everett and the Port of Townsend with whom they have good relationships.
Meanwhile, back at the Port of Olympia
The ferry Evergreen State, still tied up at Port property in Budd Inlet, was sold to the highest bidder at auction. At the time of the sale he was quoted as saying “My wife thinks I’m nuts and I think I may be as well.” His moorage is paid until May of 2022, and he reportedly acquired a
$1 million dollar bond at the direction of the Port. He reportedly intends to convert the vessel to solar power or other renewable energy source.
The Derelict Vessel Program can’t scrap a large, steel-hull vessel like the Evergreen State. That’s why the DVP tried to work with the Port to complete due diligence prior to the auction. Instead, the Port is collecting moorage on a vessel of unknown seaworthiness, owned by someone of unknown abilities and resources. We watch as the Evergreen State decays at her berth.
Chatham Strait is the pen name of a professional mariner. He lives and works in the Puget Sound area.