Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fidley Watch: Show Us the Money

by Chris Philips, Managing Editor

The concept of divide and conquer has been around as long as man has been walking upright. Sun Tzu discussed it in the Art of War, 2,500 years ago. Julius Caesar used it to enlarge the Roman Empire, Machiavelli wrote about it in The Prince. Quoting the Bible’s book of Matthew, Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” This year the concept is being used to pit two commercial maritime associations and former allies against each other.

On July 1st the commercial shipping industry in Washington State will be required to take over operation of the emergency rescue tug in Neah Bay. Under state law, companies that operate large vessels in the strait have to share in the costs of paying for a stand-by tug to help prevent an oil spill by a drift grounding. According to a recent story in the Bremerton, Washington Kitsap Sun, the issue of allocating the cost of the tug among carriers has not been resolved.

Frank Holmes, Northwest manager for the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), has been making the case that non-oil-carrying vessels are just as likely to need help from a tugboat as oil-carrying vessels, so the assessment should be based largely on the number of vessels passing through the Strait. “Clearly, the tug is being required to be there as an insurance policy for vessels that encounter a mechanical integrity problem, steering problem, engine problem or electrical problem,” he says.

Mike Moore, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA), says the tug is intended to prevent oil spills, which relates to the amount of oil or fuel on board a disabled vessel. Moore notes that cargo ships in Puget Sound have never spilled oil except during fuel transfers, which are subject to other requirements.

“The fairest way to allocate tug costs would seem to be on the basis of how much oil is carried on ships navigating the strait,” says Moore, in a recent opinion piece on the subject. “Vessel operators should pay on the basis of how much oil is moved through the strait on their ships,” he says. “Cargo ships carry about 20 percent of the oil (as fuel), tankers about 80% of the oil (as cargo and fuel). It seems that a fair share is pretty straight forward.”

A few years ago, WSPA and PMSA were united in their opposition to increasing the rescue tug at Neah Bay to year-round service. Now they find themselves on opposite sides of the issue of funding the tug. Now the house is divided, and the two associations are butting heads over who should fund a service forced upon them by the State of Washington.

In 1996, my father wrote an editorial about the rescue tug. He noted that then Governor Mike Lowry wanted President Clinton to tie lifting the export ban on Alaska North Slope Crude to the stationing of a dedicated rescue tug to protect the Coast, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the marine sanctuary off the North coast of the State of Washington.

In his editorial, my father pointed out that most of the land being protected by the tug is either Indian Reservation, National Park, National Forest or National Marine Sanctuary, and not under the jurisdiction of the State of Washington. He noted, “Since all of this real estate is being administered by the Federal Government for the citizens of all the United States, it is only fair that the citizens of all the United States should pay for its protection.”

Shortly after my father wrote these words, Governor Mike Lowry was replaced by Governor Gary Locke, who served until 2005. It was under Gary Locke’s leadership that the Neah Bay tug was funded for part-time operation, and on his watch that the scheme was hatched for full-time operation. 

In 2009, President Obama appointed former Governor Locke to the position of US Secretary of Commerce, where he is responsible for fostering, promoting, and developing the foreign and domestic commerce of the United States. Secretary of Commerce Locke is well aware of the importance of shipping to the State of Washington and the country as a whole. As my father noted 14 years ago, most of the rescue tug’s beat is Federal land. It’s time for PMSA and WSPA to get back on the same page and, united, urge Secretary Locke’s office to foot the bill for the boat.


At press time this month Tom Bringloe, of the Glosten Associates, alerted us to the passing of the prominent naval architect and founder of the firm, Lawrence “Larry” Glosten. Tom remembers first working for Larry as an intern in 1965. Larry, Ben Jensen and our father, Richard all had office space on the second floor of the Poulson Building, across from the Seattle waterfront. Ben and Larry were architects, and our father was at the time editor of Pacific Fisherman, later bought by National Fisherman.

“Most days the three of them would get together for lunch at the old Colman Lunch,” says Bringloe. “Standard fare was the special: half of the daily special sandwich, a cup of the soup of the day and a cup of coffee, all for 95 cents! Even a starving college student could afford to join them.”

Mr. Glosten, who graduated from Webb Institute in 1940, served as Chairman of the Board of The Glosten Associates until his retirement in 2001. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Lois Peterson “Pete” Glosten, his three children and the renowned naval architecture legacy he helped created.