City Council votes to remove derelict vessel in Homer Harbor
Ports across Alaska are home to a ghost fleet of derelict vessels. Many are abandoned, left to rot dockside, to become hazards to the environment or navigation. There’s one in the Homer Boat Harbor, the former fishing vessel North Pacific, which later saw life in gold dredging. The city declared the vessel a nuisance in 2016, and its owners stopped paying moorage fees in 2018.
Last April the North Pacific’s hull sprang a leak, but was quickly patched before it sank at the dock. Since then, the U.S. Coast Guard funded the removal of all the fuel, oil and other hydrocarbon fluids, but now the vessel needs to be moved before it sinks. In a memo to the mayor and council from Homer Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins, he said, “the North Pacific will, if left to its own devices, eventually end up at the bottom of the harbor.”
At Monday night’s Homer City Council meeting, a nearly-$100,000 ordinance was passed funding the prep, haul-out, and break-up of the North Pacific. Larry Sloan testified during the public hearing on the measure.
“It’s unfortunate that very occasionally to have an individual or owners who abandon their financial obligations in their vessels. I’ve been informed that it’s actually very, if not rare, (an) uncommon situation,” he said. “I don’t know what can be done to mitigate it in the future. There are possibilities with respect for insurance requirements, I guess.”
Councilmember Rachel Lord, who works for the State Harbormaster’s Association, tells a different story.
“I’ve worked with Bryan at the port and others around the state for going on 10 years on the issue of derelict vessels around the state. And I wish it were a more rare occurrence, but there are similar stories all over the state,” she said.
Lord said Homer has a strong nuisance vessel code to protect the city, but needs more.
“We don't have a great cradle-to-grave solution, and like with the abandoned vehicle fund, the state does now have a derelict vessel fund with the legislative change we worked hard on a couple of years ago,” Lord said. “But it too, is pretty much empty.”
The three-part process of disposing of the North Pacific began with getting quotes from qualified firms to inspect the vessel. C-and-C Diving and Salvage won with a $15,000 bid to make sure the boat is still strong enough to haul out.
Fortune Sea Marine Services was given a sole-source contract in the amount of $20,000 to use air bags to move the North Pacific from the tidal flats to the uplands area of the Marine Haul Out Facility. They were the only area contractor with the correct equipment that was interested in the job.
Likewise, Alaska Scrap and Recycling was given a sole source contract for the demolition and removal of the scrap. The company is doing the $63,700 of work in exchange for credit toward future lease, wharfage and dockage fees.
The inspection will likely be soon, depending on the tide cycles, with the haul out in March. The derelict vessel North Pacific will be broken up by July.