23 September 2013

Vessel dismantling idea runs aground at North Tongue Point:

Investors pull support after action by Port leaders

Frank Allen, the international seafood trader seeking to dismantle the region’s derelict vessels at North Tongue Point, said investors have tabled the funding for his Blue Ocean Environmental project.

Allen, whose main business is trading seafood internationally through his company, Live Online Seafood, said that shortly after reading The Daily Astorian story Sept. 12 about the Port of Astoria signing a memorandum of understanding regarding Tongue Point with an undisclosed party, his main investors from Seattle pulled out their funds.

“They need a site that is free of commitments and unencumbered,” said Allen, who said he has spent $100,000 on the project so far. “They don’t want to invest in anything that has another project going.

“They’ve pulled their funds, and I’m going to put pull my personal funds as well.”

The Port signed an MOU, said Commissioner Jack Bland, to could potentially divest the agency of the 40-acre facility's operation, which has often been cited as a money looser. The Port in 2009 signed a lease through 2019 with the Washington Group of Montana to operate North Tongue Point, now paying $350,000 a year in leases, in addition to maintenance, utilities and other costs.

Allen said the project had investment backing from a local maritime industry representative in southwest Washington and an investment fund manager from Seattle.

He approached the Port in April proposing a more environmentally conscious way of dismantling ships, as opposed to such shipbreaking operations as Alang, India, where vessels are run aground and torn apart haphazardly.

“North Tongue Point location is the only facility in the world of its kind that is sitting empty. Period,” he said about his primary reason for choosing Astoria for the proposal. “It’s a $500 million facility that’s sitting empty.

“When I did my labor research around here, there’s that kind of hardcore logging mentality. I felt that there – for a lack of better terms – wouldn’t be a lack of tough guys.”

Allen said there are 300 derelict vessels in Oregon and another 400 in Washington needing to be recycled, not mentioning the global problem. “I just got sick and tired that no one was doing anything about it,”

He asked the Port to start with a 40-foot fishing vessel moored at Tongue Point, rolling it onto the tarmac or into Hangar 3 with a dolly, cleaning and salvaging parts from it and then scrapping the metal. The metal would then be shipped to Seattle to steel firm Nucor Corp. for use domestically. Then the project would be stopped and the Port and the public briefed on the process.

The project ran into snags, namely being able to use Tongue Point’s Hangar 3, which used to house Pacific Expedition yacht-building company. Allen, who said the project got 95 percent of the way to kickoff, thanked City Manager Paul Benoit for working with him and making clear what he had to do to make the building usable.

“I’ve talked to probably 200 people that were naysayers and that were for this,” said Allen about the community’s reception.

Allen got a coordinator from the Department of Environmental Quality for his project through the North Coast Regional Solutions Center of the Gov. John Kitzhaber’s Office. “They all recognize that something has to be done, not just locally but worldwide.”

He received help from the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce and said the Port was also supportive.

“This thing isn’t done,” said Allen. “I’m still going to talk independently to Port commissioners.”

He leaves later this month to hunt for commodities in Asia and to develop a coffee plantation in Cambodia.

Source: daily astorian. By Edward Stratton. 19 September 2013

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