Today, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law a bill to prevent abandoned ships from polluting our waterways. HB 1245, which passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, was sponsored by Senator Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe) and Representative Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island).

“Derelict vessels increase the risk of oil spills and other pollution in Puget Sound,” said Joan Crooks, Executive Director of Washington Environmental Council. “Each abandoned ship poses a serious threat to the health of marine life and our resource-based economies. Clean up after the fact is exponentially more costly than preventing problems from derelict vessels in the first place.”

This legislation was requested by the Department of Natural Resources and has broad support from the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association, Ports, boating organizations, NW Marine Trade Association, businesses, and Tribes.

The problem with older, derelict vessels was highlighted last May when the Deep Sea, an old crab fishing vessel, caught fire and sank in Penn Cove – spilling oil and polluting the water. Cleaning up after this spill has cost taxpayers almost $3 million. These costs might have been averted had the state been able to act proactively, reducing costs to around $50,000.

Derelict vessels are ships or boats abandoned by their owners, which are at high risk of sinking, spilling hazardous materials or blocking shipping lanes. The new law gives the state the ability to deal with these situations proactively, reducing the risk of major spills and costs associated with clean up.

The Derelict Vessel law will:

  • Provide potential new owners with information about seaworthiness of vessels before the sale is completed.
  • Place restrictions on sale of publically owned vessels that are not seaworthy.
  • Provide funding to help with proper disposal costs.
  • Provide authority to Department of Ecology to board and drain fuel and oil from these vessels before they sink, greatly reducing any potential impacts should the vessel sink.