Daily Astorian – Astoria riverfront shipbreaking idea forced outdoors

(Written by Edward Stratton)

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24 July 2013 - When Frank Allen of Blue Ocean Environmental proposed dismantling derelict boats on land at the Port of Astoria’s North Tongue Point facility, he wanted to do so inside one of the World War II-era hangars.

Hangar 3 was formerly occupied by the yacht-building company Pacific Expedition, which was evicted by the Port for nonpayment of rent. Allen believed that dismantling indoors would eliminate many of the environmental concerns.

But Allen told the Port Commission Tuesday night that Jack Applegate, Astoria’s building official and code enforcement officer, said nothing could be done in the building until it undergoes massive upgrades to comply with modern building standards.

“We can’t do anything with the building,” said Mike Weston, the Port’s director of business development and operations. “It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”

This is the latest attempt by an outside company to approach the Port of Astoria wanting to bring shipbreaking operations to the Columbia River. Previous attempts have failed, in part because of vocal opposition based on environmental worries.

Hangar 3 was originally meant for seaplanes patrolling the coast during World War II.

Weston said that bringing the hangar up to modern codes could cost between $200,000 and $300,000.

He said Applegate mentioned that the building didn’t have an official change of occupancy in some time, the reason why the issue hadn’t arisen earlier.

In addition to not allowing shipbreaking, it appears other businesses will also be blocked from entering the hangar.

“And now we’re back outside,” said Allen, asking the Port to let him approach his environmental engineers and have them seek alternatives for ship dismantling on the tarmac outside the hangar.

Instead of Hangar 3, he raised the possibility of renting for one month an approximately 100-foot by 200-foot segment of the tarmac.

Allen bills his proposed operation as a much more environmentally friendly way of dismantling and scrapping derelict vessels, which dot the region in the hundreds, and providing high-quality, local jobs.

He hopes to start by dismantling the Captain Oscar, a small, derelict fishing vessel at Tongue Point. Blue Ocean would bring in specialists to remove the toxic substances, recycle the metal and ship it by barge to Seattle to steel firm Nucor Corp. (www.nucor.com), which would reprocess it for use in the U.S.

“It’s a lot of work and a lot of money for something small, but ultimately I think it will be a good fit,” said Allen, adding that he expects to lose about $20,000 by the time the first vessel is scrapped.

Afterward, he would stop the operation, review the results with the Port and community and see if everyone is OK with continuing.

Allen said the states of Oregon and Washington could provide support in purchasing derelict vessels once the operation proves itself successful. Dennie Houle, a local representative from Business Oregon, said the state has taken notice and offered to help Allen review his business plan at the appropriate time.

“I personally think if he can do what he says he can do, and stay in business doing it, it would be a service to the state,” said Houle.

Documentation

Commissioner Stephen Fulton told Allen he should bring documentation.

The project is labor-intensive, said Allen, with difficult but high-quality jobs to be had dismantling the vessels. His ultimate goal, years down the road, would be to build a bigger infrastructure at Tongue Point and dismantle larger ships, also using Clatsop Community College for training local workers.

“You’ve got to sell this to the community,” said Commissioner Stephen Fulton, adding that Allen should bring documents from the state showing support for the activity.

From 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the old Port office, 422 Gateway Ave., Allen will present on his operation and take questions from the public.

Port mulls cold storage, fish processing

The previous Port Commission, including Larry Pfund, Floyd Holcom and Dan Hess, voted 3-2 on May 21 to move forward with a nonbinding action plan to explore leasing the southeastern portion of Pier 2 to Da Yang Seafoods and Bornstein Seafoods. In exchange, the companies would help pay for its restoration.

Weston, who recommended that plan of action along with staff, brought forth draft leases Tuesday that would lease Da Yang 31,350 square feet for $8,122 per month and Bornstein 22,000 square feet for $5,700 per month, both lasting for 10 years and crediting the two companies for improvements to Pier 2.

The Port Commission agreed to pursue the non-binding exploration of lease agreements under duress, with staff fearful of losing a $1.25 million Oregon Department of Transportation Connect IV grant it’s using to rehabilitate the east side of Pier 2. Along with the joint lease for Da Yang and Bornstein was the option to explore the concept of a public cold storage, albeit with no proposals or backing for construction.

Commissioner Bill Hunsinger voiced his opposition to the seafood proposals, saying that the pier and dock space on Pier 2 is too valuable to give up to two companies. The Port, he said, should further explore a public cold storage, which he added has backing from 22 local firms in fishing, cranberries and other industries.

Fulton said the Port must focus on covering its shortfall on the Connect IV grant, about $260,000 as of the May 21 meeting.

“I’ve heard a lot of talk, and maybe there’s a demand, but I have yet to see a proposal,” said CEO Hank Bynaker.

Weston added that the cold storage could be good, but the Port’s problem is the timeline of its state grant. “And who’s to say we can’t entertain both proposals?”

The commission will discuss Pier 2 and other issues at a daylong workshop Aug. 2.