State ecology officials say derelict vessels, especially old fishing and work boats, are serious threats all over the Puget Sound, and it turns out these things get bought and sold all the time, but are rarely fixed up and put back in use.
"We're seeing long term tenants that are defaulting on their moorage and ultimately leaving their vessels to rot at our facilities and other facilities,” said Mike DeSota, Environmental Compliance Program Manager, Port of Seattle.
Such was the case of the Deep Sea, the rusty wreck that showed up one day on Penn Cove and several days later caught fire, sank and fouled beaches and shellfish farms with its toxic fuels and fluids. The Port of Seattle had tried but failed to sell it by auction.
"We looked for other avenues to sell it, that vessel was actually listed on Craigslist. It was sold,” said DeSota.
It was sold to an owner who parked it in the middle of an environmental and economic center.
Does the Port fell responsible in any way for what happened to that vessel?
"You know we followed the statute, we took custody of the vessel, we sold it, we requested, uh we required, that the new owner give us a business proposal for that,” said DeSota.
An unknown arsonist set fire to the boat before that plan could be completed.
Other ships sold by the port have ended up in trouble. The Golden West, another derelict fishing vessel sold by the Port of Seattle, is threatening to go down in Tacoma's Hylebos Waterway. It is attached to yet another derelict vessel that has already sank. It's a story that Puget Sound Protection groups hear over and over again.
"There are boats all over the place that are slowly going derelict,” said Chris Wilke, Executive Director of Puget Soundkeeper. "We're continuing to make new boats and we don't have a good way of disposing of old boats.”
The state legislature is currently considering a bill tightening up on the sale of derelict vessels. As it stands now, it is a very common practice for ports and marinas that end up with these abandoned boats to just get rid of them at the best price they can get