ASTORIA — The term shipbreaking, a common term used for dismantling ships, scrapping and selling their metal and other usable components, sticks in the craw of Frank Allen, the organizer behind Blue Ocean Environmental and its proposal to dismantle vessels at the Port of Astoria’s North Tongue Point facility.
His proposed operation, he said, isn’t haphazardly breaking but methodically cleaning and recycling; it’s sticking to vessels less than 200 tons – boats instead of ships – for the foreseeable future; and it isn’t trying to do anything in the water, an environmentally concerning practice found in places like Brownsville, Texas, but illegal in Oregon.
During a public presentation and forum Thursday, July 25, at the old Port of Astoria offices, Allen told the sparse audience of eight how he wants to start a trial run with a 40-foot vessel languishing at North Tongue Point, then stop and see what the community thinks, holding an additional community forum.
Cleaning, then dismantling
“I couldn’t think of a more benign way to do this than fix a problem then stop,” said Allen of the derelict 40-foot fishing vessel Cap’n Oscar, owned by the Port and languishing alongside Pier 2 at North Tongue Point.
Allen, whose main business is internationally trading seafood through his company Live Online Seafood, wants to bring in an expert demolition team from New York he’s worked with before as a commercial and industrial contractor on the East Coast.
He’d also hire some locals to start teaching them the process. If the operation continues, he said, it will eventually need a homegrown workforce, possibly including training opportunities at Tongue Point Job Corps Center and Clatsop Community College.
His crew from New York would take the vessel onto the docks on a dolly with welding supports on the sides to keep it erect.
“What’s different with the other operations is they go for the scrapping first,” said Allen. “We’re going to go in and clean it up first, then we’re going to scrap it out.”
All usable, working parts would be salvaged and sold whole. Then they would proceed with scrapping and dismantling. The metal would be barged to Seattle to steel firm Nucor Corp. (www.nucor.com), which would reprocess it for use in the U.S.
His crew from the East Coast, he added, has used the same method on two barges in New York.
After checking with Job Corps, Allen said his operation hours wouldn’t extend beyond their’s, between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
“I want to make sure you finish the job and make it broom clean,” said Leon Jackson, adding that the Port should hold a bond until the first vessel is completely done with. Jackson came to learn more of the operation, he said, after reading mostly negative and contradictory coverage in The Daily Astorian.
“We can bond up to $10 million right now,” said Allen, adding that the Port has asked for a deposit. There is no agreement yet in place between the Port and Blue Ocean.
Allen and Port staff lamented previously over not being able to work inside the western portion of Hangar 3 that previously housed the evicted Pacific Expedition yacht-building company. The city’s building inspector said it needed to undergo significant improvements. It was hoped that doing it indoors would eliminate many of the environmental hazards, and Allen offered to clean the portion of the building, left with fiberglass debris on the inside, before starting.
But the door hasn’t closed on using Hangar 3 yet, said Port CEO Hank Bynaker, who’s been meeting with city officials to see what can be done to make the structure suitable for the operation.
Allen, who said he has to hire engineers to ensure Hangar 3 will be suitable, hopes to start work on the Cap’n Oscar within a month, adding that the cleaning, scrapping and dismantling process should take about a week. Then the review by the Port and the general public would begin.
Lori Durheim, a regular watchdog of Port operations, asked who monitors Blue Ocean’s activities. Allen said the Department of Environmental Quality in Oregon and the Washington Department of Ecology monitor, adding that he’s likely to get lots of attention during the first vessel work from both environmental and governmental organizations.
“It’s in our best interest to do well by them,” said Allen. “We have to get contracts from them. We want to be on their preferred vendor list.”
He keeps a watch list of substances like asbestos and PCBs, adding that old inventory left in the boat often poses the biggest hazard.
“We’re trying to get registered as a green ship recycling facility,” he said of his operation, disassociating it from the haphazard shipbreaking yards of Alang, India, Brownsville and others where vessels are simply run aground and torn apart with little environmental or safety concerns.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Seattle-based Basel Action Network and Greenpeace created the Green Ship Recycling Standard in 2008 through their joint organization, the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking. It seeks “to establish an environmentally sound management and methodology in shipbreaking and recycling of ships.”
Referring to instances such as the $20-million cleanup of the sunken Davy Crockett in Camas, Wash., and the $5.4-million cleanup of the fire-gutted and sunken Deep Sea in Seattle, Allen said his operation is trying to be proactive.
Starting as a money-loser
Leon Jackson asked about the owners of boats.
“There’s 300 to 400 vessels like this in Washington and in Oregon that are abandoned and sinking in the river,” said Allen, adding that owners will often buy moorage in a marina or Port before leaving them.
Jackson asked Allen how much the Cap’n Oscar will cost to dismantle. Allen said it would likely take $20,000 out of his pocket, but he’d continue doing small vessels for proof of his method’s merits if needed. The operation can turn a profit, he said, once he can get the vessels in place for free from the public or private entities trying to dispose of them.
Ted Thomas, another regular meeting attendee, asked Allen if he had thought about connecting rail to ship metal from Tongue Point.
“That’s down the road,” said Allen, who would like to gradually increase the size of vessels over time. “We need to prove that we can do this one first.”
There’s no set timeline for when Blue Ocean could start and no agreement with the Port.
Source: Coast River Business Journal. 22 August 2011http://www.crbizjournal.com/news/blue-ocean-wants-to-recycle-not-break-region-s-derelict/article_5d2ae4d4-0b79-11e3-b78c-001a4bcf887a.html