New shipbuilding technology may come to the U.S. as a result of lobbying efforts to gain a rare waiver for an advanced shipping vessel.
The Anacortes shipyard whose $75 million fishing boat could be barred from U.S. waters has offered to buy and donate some advanced steel-shaping technology in a bid to mollify the rest of the industry and win a waiver from the regulation it violated.
Dakota Creek Industries had some steel for the large fishing vessel shaped in Europe using cold-forming technology, which it says is not available in the U.S. But that work led the boat to be disqualified from maritime use in U.S. waters under the Jones Act.
The company hopes the purchase would help win the waiver it seeks from the Coast Guard to allow the ship to be considered American-made, and qualify it for fishing and trade.
Company Vice President Mike Nelson confirmed it is trying to buy the cold-forming equipment, and said this is something Dakota Creek has proposed since the outset.
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He declined to elaborate. The Skagit Valley Herald, which first reported the proposed equipment purchase, said the cold-forming press in question costs $700,000 and would be given to Seattle-based Seaport Steel, so various U.S. shipbuilders could access the technology.
Waivers from the Jones Act are rarely granted, industry experts say.
The trawler, America’s Finest, was found to contain too much foreign-formed steel in the vessel’s hull, according to The Herald.
It is said to be the largest, most modern American-made trawler built in nearly three decades, and lawyers hired by the shipbuilders claim that without a waiver the financial repercussions could destroy both Dakota Creek and its customer, Fishermen’s Finest, a fishing company with offices in Anacortes and Kirkland.
The buyers have already paid $62 million of the construction cost. The ship is more than 86 percent complete and expected to be ready in November.
The Herald reported that Dakota Creek is trying to gain the approval of the American Maritime Partnership, a coalition that represents the maritime industry, and the technology donation might help.
The coalition has not taken any official stance on the waiver, but is a notable Jones Act supporter. Two fishing-industry groups, the Pacific Seafood Association and United Catcher Boats, have sent the coalition letters opposing the waiver without a Coast Guard investigation, the Herald reported.
In May, Dakota Creek’s effort to get a waiver gained support from U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, whose district includes Anacortes. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a Larsen-sponsored amendment to the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017 that would allow the needed exemption for America’s Finest.