Company promises jobs, predicts up to 50 vessels a year
“What we’re proposing is not shipbreaking,” said Frank Allen, a partner with Scott Fraser in Blue Ocean Environmental, standing at the front of a packed Port of Astoria Commission meeting Tuesday night.
During a presentation, he talked as much to the audience as he did the Port commissioners.
The abnormally large crowd gathered in anticipation of Blue Ocean’s proposal for recycling the metal from derelict vessels at the Port’s North Tongue Point facility. Several previous applications for shipbreaking on the Columbia River have been rejected in recent years because of widespread fears that toxic materials would pollute fragile salmon areas.
The Port and Blue Ocean had a nondisclosure agreement that was recently lifted.
“I have a job,” said Allen, adding that he works in the international seafood trade. “This is just something that bothers me.”
According to ORS 783.400, shipbreaking means the process of dismantling a ship for scrap or disposal. India breaks the most ships as a country, with the coastal city of Alang a worldwide center for the practice. More than 1,000 ships were recycled last year, according to German news outlet Der Spiegel Online.
There are 300 derelict vessels in Oregon and 400 in Washington deteriorating and polluting the environment, said Allen. Thousands are being disposed of without any environmental concerns, he said.
He said the two options with this issue are to be proactive or do nothing.
“There’s a lot of hurdles to doing this right,” said Allen, who offered to rent a space in Astoria for multiple town halls to discuss how his company wants to recycle vessels. “The true thing is to do this very slowly, very carefully.”
His operation would start with a small, 60- to 70-foot vessel at North Tongue Point. Blue Ocean would bring in specialists to remove the toxic substances, recycle the metal and ship it by barge to Seattle. Steel firm Nucor Corporation (www.nucor .com) will take it for what Allen said would currently be about $19 a ton and reprocess it for use in the U.S.
“We’re working directly under the EPA,” said Allen, adding that the operation’s primary environmental monitor reporting to the state would be the Maul Foster & Alongi engineering firm of Portland. The U.S. Coast Guard would also be involved in permitting Blue Ocean to tow any vessels in.
“We’re doing it to prove a point: that it can be done,” said Allen, adding that it’s going to build up over a number of years and not be a moneymaker to start. He asked for a chance to try the process on a small, possibly local vessel, after which Blue Ocean, the Port and the public could go over the results and decide whether to keep Blue Ocean around.
“The good thing for the community about this … it’s so labor intensive,” said Allen. “It takes so much manpower to get this done. And they’re not minimum-wage jobs.”
Starting with workers from New York to get the operation going and train others, he said he’s looked into training opportunities with Clatsop Community College.
If given a chance, said Allen, people wouldn’t be surprised by the start of the operation. He’d have to go to the city and then the state. “To do it right, it’s got to be methodical and slow and long-term.”
“There’s got to be some way to clean these vessels up,” said Commissioner Bill Hunsinger, adding that he’d like to have a public workshop on the business. “If something like that works here, why wouldn’t we try it to a certain extent?”
Commissioner Floyd Holcom said the four previous proposals were run out of town to look for other locations. “The Daily Astorian is immediately out there kicking you out of town. That’s why we don’t have a lot of jobs.”
He said 90 percent of people probably have no idea what he’s talking about, or that some shipwrecks from Portland were recycled through a former Tongue Point tenant at East West Construction. He added that Blue Ocean should have a chance at its proposal.
In response to questions from union representatives, Allen said he’d be open to negotiating with them for employment. There will not be much monetary support from the government,
“I’d like to see the Port with you … have a really good lease that protects the Port,” said Lori Durheim, adding that she would like affidavits between Ocean Blue and the regulatory agencies involved.
Along with a willingness to give three or four public presentations, Allen said he’ll look into creating an email account specifically for people with questions about his proposal and will provide information to the public that isn’t proprietary. Blue Ocean doesn’t currently have a web site.
“Years down the road, we’d like to work on larger vessels,” said Allen, adding that he sees Tongue Point being able to handle 50 vessels a year at full capacity. “Someone’s got to address this. It can’t keep going the way it’s going.”
Source: dailyastorian. By EDWARD STRATTON. 15 May 2013http://www.dailyastorian.com/free/shipbreaking-is-recycling-port-is-told/article_c6991d94-bd7e-11e2-bbeb-0019bb2963f4.html