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Inslee signs bipartisan bill to increase state push against derelict and abandoned vessels
OLYMPIA – Surrounded by legislators and a diverse group of supportive stakeholders, Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Wednesday that builds on the state’s commitment to prevent derelict vessels from becoming a burden to the citizens of Washington State.
The signing capped a two-year effort led by Rep. Drew Hansen of Bainbridge Island to tackle the stubborn problem of derelict and abandoned boats and ships that leak oil and other pollutants into the water and also threaten safe passage by vessels large and small.
"Today our state takes a significant step to protect jobs in the shellfish, marine, and recreation industries," Hansen said.
"We've seen too many jobs threatened when derelict boats sink and spill chemicals in our waters," he said. "This bill speeds up getting problem boats out of the water, it makes it more likely that the boats will go to responsible owners, and it encourages owners to do the right thing and send the boats to salvage yards instead of letting them rot in Puget Sound.
"This was truly bipartisan legislation," said Hansen, a Democrat and 23rd District lawmaker. "I worked very closely with Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton ) and Sen. Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe) on this issue. The bill is a testament to our ability to work across party lines to address threats to jobs in our state."
The legislation aims to further protect Washington’s waters and the public, foster responsible and accountable vessel ownership, provide an additional funding source for removing derelict vessels, and encourage removal and deconstruction before vessels become a problem.
“DNR’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program is an award-winning model for the rest of the nation,” Inslee said.
“This legislation is significant, not only because of what the bill does, but how it galvanized both sides of the aisle and a diverse group of stakeholders to develop workable solutions,” the governor added.
The process to draft and shape the legislation began last summer with the convening of a work group, as directed by last year’s derelict vessel legislation, a bill also sponsored by Hansen.
The work group consisted of legislators and state agency staff who drew up a list of possible solutions to the problems that derelict and abandoned vessels create. The list was then presented to a diverse group of interests that represented the commercial and recreational vessel industries, environmental groups and ports.
“I applaud the great collaborative work that was done before and during this session to address the environmental, safety, and public expense risks caused by derelict vessels,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark.
“In particular, I want to thank Rep. Drew Hansen and Rep. Norma Smith for providing the critical legislative support and leadership for this bill, and staff at the Department of Revenue for working with us to develop a more equitable funding solution by requiring commercial vessel owners to pay a fee to support removal costs," Goldmark said. "For too long, recreational vessel owners have shouldered these costs. It’s a great start, but more work needs to be done.”
Hansen said the measure — House Bill 2457 — was designed to address the kind of incidents that have generated headlines around Puget Sound in recent years: an abandoned tugboat sinking in Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island; a 167-foot ship going under in Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway, dragging another ship off even keel; and the state seizing a 180-foot hulk off Port Ludlow when its owner couldn't complete plans to tow it to Mexico.
The newest proposal does more to address the problem of abandoned boats, and focuses on the bigger, older boats that are most likely to decay and become derelict.
Key elements of the bill:
• Establishes an annual "derelict vessel removal fee" of $1 per foot on commercial vessels that are required to be listed with the Department of Revenue. Revenue from this fee will go into the state's Derelict Vessel Removal Account, which is managed by DNR.
• Requires moorage facilities and owners of vessels moored at these facilities to carry marine insurance.
• Requires insurance at the time of sale for vessels older than 40 years and longer than 65 feet.
• Prohibits the sale of unseaworthy vessels older than 40 years and longer than 65 feet.
• Exempts vessel deconstruction activities from the retail sales and use tax.
• Creates new penalties for failing to register a vessel.
“A lot of work has gone into this bill; by Democrats and Republicans, House members and Senators, environmentalists, boaters, shellfishers, marina operators, industry representatives and more,” Hansen said. “This bill will save jobs and also keep our waterways clean and safe for recreation and industry.”