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Senate tightens control over derelict vessels

OLYMPIA — The widespread problem of derelict and abandoned boats and ships would be tackled with strengthened controls and more money, under a bill approved by the state Senate.

The measure, by Rep. Drew Hansen, D-23rd District, is designed to address the kind of incidents that have generated headlines around Puget Sound lately: A 167-foot ship sinking in Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway, dragging another ship off even keel; the state seizing a 180-foot hulk off Port Ludlow when its owner misfired on plans to tow it to Mexico; a 140-foot former fishing boat catching fire in Penn Cove, disgorging fuel into the water as it sank.

“This bill protects jobs by getting abandoned boats out of our waters before they sink and cause millions of dollars of damage to our state’s shellfish and recreation industries,” Hansen said. “This is a real concern for us in Kitsap County, where we have lots of jobs that depend on safe and clean waterways.”

The measure was approved earlier by the House. Because the Senate made some changes to the bill, it now will return to the House for concurrence with the changes — which is expected, according to Hansen’s office — before going to the governor for signature into law.

Key elements of House Bill 1245 would:
— Set up a voluntary program for owners of decaying boats and ships to turn them over to the state for proper disposal before the vessels fall into the official “derelict” category, which potentially triggers government seizure.
— Require owners of large, aging boats to get them inspected before selling them, and to provide the inspection report to the prospective buyer.
— Extend the current $1 surcharge to the normal $2 derelict-vessel assessment that is included in the fees charged boat owners as part of their annual state registration.

The money finances the state fund for removal and disposal of decayed and abandoned vessels when the owner is unknown or unable to cover the cost.

Republican Sen. Kirk Pearson of Monroe spoke in favor of Hansen’s bill on the Senate floor.

“We have problems with derelict and abandoned vessels in the state of Washington,” Pearson said.  “We need to keep our Puget Sound and our waterways as pristine as possible and I believe this legislation gets us there.”

The bill was approved 44-3.

 

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