House approves Hansen marine jobs bill

Moving to head off a continuing threat to jobs in the marine and recreational industries, the House Monday approved a measure to speed removal of sinking and abandoned ships and boats from the state’s waterways.

 The measure, House Bill 2457, by Rep. Drew Hansen, is designed to address the kind of incidents that have generated headlines around Puget Sound in recent years: an abandoned tugboat sinking in Eagle Harbor; a 167-foot ship going under  in Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway, dragging another ship off even keel; and the state seizing a 180-foot hulk off Port Ludlow when its owner misfired on plans to tow it to Mexico.

“This is a big problem our state has been struggling with for many years,” Hansen told the House. His measure, he said, ”speeds up getting these boats out of the water, it makes it more likely that these boats will go to the people who have the resources to take care of them and it encourages them to do the right thing.”

Hansen, a Democrat from Kitsap County, worked over the summer with Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, on the bipartisan proposal to accelerate the removal of derelict vessels, increase accountability for owners of high-risk boats and prompt boat owners to dispose of vessels safely. In the 2013 legislative session, Hansen successfully pushed a bill to protect jobs in the marine industries by strengthening the state’s derelict vessel program. That measure, House Bill 1245, was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Hansen’s newest proposal would go further to address the problem, focusing on the bigger, older boats that are most likely to decay and become derelict.

Hansen’s bill is the product of a bipartisan working group convened by HB 1245 to evaluate further steps the state could take to protect jobs by removing derelict vessels.

“We’re going to be able to really set a national standard for how to do things differently,” Smith said in urging support for the measure. The 88-9 vote in favor sends the bill to the Senate.