No waiver granted for fishing vessel

March 24, 2018 GMT

A waiver that would have made a $75 million vessel built by Dakota Creek Industries of Anacortes eligible to fish in U.S. waters was not included in a spending bill that was signed into law Friday, according to a statement by U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen.

The passage of a Jones Act waiver would have forgiven a mistake by Anacortes-based Dakota Creek Industries, which involved using too much foreign-fabricated material in the ship’s hull.

Without the waiver, Fishermen’s Finest, the company that contracted Dakota Creek to build the vessel America’s Finest, will move to sell the vessel abroad.

“We’re putting the ship up for sale because we didn’t get the waiver, and we need to move forward with business decisions,” Fishermen’s Finest President Dennis Moran told the Anacortes American on Friday morning.

Moran declined to discuss potential buyers, citing private business matters. But his company’s website has long featured a statement from the Save Our Ship Coalition, which outlined some of the negative impacts if no waiver is granted.

“Without a waiver from the United States Congress from those rules, America’s Finest will be banned from fishing in U.S. waters, and is likely to be sold to a Russian fishing company at a disastrous loss. Such a setback may bankrupt Dakota Creek, endanger its 350 family wage jobs and halt the creation of 100 new high paying jobs aboard America’s Finest. This blow would not only devastate the local Anacortes community — it would send shockwaves through the maritime supply chain, at the cost of Washington state jobs that pay an average salary of more than $70,000 per year,” according to the statement.

While Fisherman’s Finest has millions invested and will also feel an impact, Moran said the Kirkland-based company will be fine.

“Our company has never been stronger,” he said.

Dakota Creek Vice President Mike Nelson said his family-owned company will continue to push for a variation of the waiver.

“We will be meeting with Fishermen’s Finest and trying to come up with a plan to work though it,” Nelson said. “(The vessel) is not going to sell overseas overnight, so we have to keep working on it.”

In the nearly yearlong effort to get a Jones Act waiver approved by Congress, Nelson said the Dakota Creek staff has decreased from about 400 employees to fewer than 200.

“The battle is not over, and we are already exploring the next legislative steps,” Larsen said in his statement. “We don’t give up easily when jobs are on the line.”

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell was working to attach a waiver to Senate legislation, but one was not included in the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that went through Friday.

{p dir=”ltr”}Anacortes Mayor Laurie Gere said the long-term impact to Dakota Creek will also affect the city.

{p dir=”ltr”}“It’s a loss of jobs that’s traumatic for us,” she said. “But at this point it’s premature to make any predictions until we know what (Dakota Creek’s) next steps are.”

{p dir=”ltr”}America’s Finest is the largest catcher and processor built in the U.S. in the past 30 years, Moran said. It includes its own fish processing facility, power plant and sewage treatment facility.

{p dir=”ltr”}However, the vessel exceeds the 1.5 percent foreign-fabricated materials threshold allowed by the Jones Act. Among other things, the act requires that all domestic shipping by sea be done by vessels built in the U.S.

{p dir=”ltr”}Over the past 20 years, more than 100 vessels have been granted Jones Act waivers.

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The Anacortes American contributed to this report.