By Rolf Boone
A plan that would’ve brought two government ships to the Port of Olympia for five years and generated $3.5 million in revenue has fallen through, the port’s executive director announced Monday.
The two 600-foot ships — Admiral W.M. Callaghan and Cape Orlando — are part of the Ready Reserve Fleet, also known as the Ready Reserve Force, which is part of the U.S. Maritime Administration. The U.S. Maritime Administration is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The ships now are based in Alameda, California. Among Ready Reserve Fleet duties: support national defense efforts and aid humanitarian causes.
“These vessels may be staying in California rather than coming to the Port of Olympia,” Executive Director Sam Gibboney told the port commission during its Monday meeting. “Through the contract approval process we were informed of an interpretation of logistical requirements for multiple vessels that would eliminate the Port of Olympia.”
Port of Olympia spokeswoman Jennie Foglia-Jones explained to The Olympian that an intermediary business called Marine Design and Operations — a business that had been tentatively awarded a bid to do business with the port in dealing with the ships — ultimately did not get the U.S. Maritime Administration contract.
The reason: The port could not meet a requirement of “dead ship” status, having enough tug boats on hand to remove the ships simultaneously from the marine terminal within two hours.
The port has two tugs, but would need four tugs, she said.
Foglia-Jones said the port could call on tugs from Tacoma, but the time needed to get the tugs here would fall outside the two-hour requirement.
“We came this close,” said Port Commissioner Bill McGregor as he held up two fingers. “Over the years, we’ve tried several times to attract (U.S. Maritime Administration) vessels and this is the closest we have come. Hopefully we will be successful in the years to come.”
Now that the two Ready Reserve Ships are not coming to the port, there is less urgency to move the former Washington state ferry that has been docked at the marine terminal for three years.
Foglia-Jones said the new owner of the ferry is still paying to have the vessel docked at the port.