By Robin Dudley from the chef
Representatives from Jefferson County’s largest shipping company have expressed serious concerns to Port Townsend harbor commissioners over certain user fees.
Martin Mills and Tim Lee of the Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-op questioned the commissioners at a meeting on February 10 about the 3 percent surcharge for heavy haulage.
When the harbor commission in 1995 approved a project to build a jetty and add a 300-ton mobile winch to complete the 70-ton winch already present, it was accompanied by a commitment from the largest shipping companies to financially support the effort. Instead of a cash contribution, the concept was that any port lease tenant working on a vessel that uses heavy hauling must contribute 3 percent of the value of the project, whether it be maintenance, repair or construction, at the port.
“The CERB [Community Economic Revitalization Board] the loan was $ 1.7 million just for heavy haulage, ”Jim Pivarnik, deputy port manager, told the chief on Feb. 16. “To get this loan, CERB asked us to get the commitment from our maritime trades that they would help finance this.”
Pivarnik said “seven or eight” shipping companies have pledged to pay the 3% surcharge. “It was on the honor system,” Pivarnik said.
The commission installed the surcharge in January 1997. The surcharge does not apply to the 70 tonne elevator.
The heavy haulout significantly expanded the type of vessels that could be serviced in Port Townsend – and it opened at a time when boats in the Alaska Fishing Fleet were out of order, so more work was needed.
Fast forward to 2016, and the Shipwrights Co-op – which has grown to be the largest company on port property – wants surtax fund accounting.
“We would like to encourage an audit of the 3 percent surcharge for heavy haulage,” Mills told the port commission. “We would like to know who is paying because we have paid our share. We would like to know where ours went. How much was earned on the 3% surtax last year?
Pivarnik told the chief on Feb. 16 that the port normally collects “$ 50,000 to $ 60,000 per year” from the surcharge. In 2015, he said, “we received $ 110,000… There were about a dozen different maritime trades that contributed.”
In 2015, the Shipwright Co-op’s contribution was $ 51,000, Pivarnik said.
The CERB loan is due in July 2017, Pivarnik said, and commissioners must decide whether the surcharge continues in order to fund the maintenance of the heavy haulage. “It will be an interesting battle,” noted Pivarnik.
There is a cap of $ 15,000 on the surtax for a given job, he added.
Commissioner Pete Hanke noted at the February 10 port meeting that the surcharge is on the honor system, and added, “If you do your own job, you don’t pay the 3%.”
Mills also raised concerns about increasing rates of use of the work float, a section of the dock used for things like pulling sailboat masts before grounding and installing equipment that needs to be performed while a boat is in the water.
Floating rates are currently listed on the port’s website at $ 2 per foot per day with a maximum of two weeks. The rate was $ 1 a foot, Pivarnik told the Chief.
According to a port budget document, in 2015 the port expected to generate $ 3,000 from the use of the floats and the lifting jetty, and in 2016 the budget figure is $ 18,000.
Pivarnik said the jump reflects a change in the way bookkeeping is done this year. “We had a category called ship mooring; it’s just mooring now,” he said.
The transient mooring was increased from $ 1 per foot to $ 1.25 per foot, and the increase in the working float was larger because “we wanted to make sure there was a differential,” said Pivarnik. “What we are trying to discourage are long term plans [on the work float]People would reserve the working float for four months, and others couldn’t use it, he said. at the “bleachers”.
The increase in working fleet fees, Mills said Feb. 10, can leave people feeling “assaulted” and may cause boat owners to choose other harbors for future haulouts and maintenance.
“I don’t think you make a lot of money collecting [work float] rate, “he said.” In the end, are you going to make more money out of it because it’s used half as much? “
Lee said, “People can spend $ 200,000 or $ 400,000 here, and the working float comes at the end of a project. It’s a pretty crucial part of finishing a boat.”
“These are projects that may have already spent $ 9,000 on land storage,” Mills said. “A big invoice or an addition at the end of a project has a more negative impact on a client than at the beginning.”
“[High work-float rate] is a difficult thing to explain to customers. They will feel ripped off. Workboat communities … regularly spend money. It seems like the wrong angle to take. “
Mills reiterated that the work done in the port is a service, and encouraged the port authority to consider paying more attention to public relations with owners of high-spending commercial vessels, “to make the port more attractive to the public. [boats from] Alaska.”
He explained that commercial boats that spend a lot of money on maintenance and repairs in Port Townsend are more likely to continue bringing their boats here with more boat-friendly policies.
Mills spoke from experience; he owns and operates a fishing dinghy, visiting various ports over the course of a fishing season, so he has observed how different ports approach boat owners. He also spoke to port customers who were put off by the policies of the Port of Port Townsend.
“The ‘innocent until proven guilty’ attitude is what we need…. Getting down and facing you is not the best way,” Mills said of the way some commercial boat owners are processed upon arrival.
“The [port] the commission told us that we had to collect the payment immediately, ”Pivarnik said on February 16. “We had a number of boats coming in for a day or two and then leaving. “
Pivarnik said the port encourages customers to check in early. “In Alaska, that’s how you do … you go up to the office when you’re ready.” He compared it to arriving at a hotel and expecting to be able to go to your room without checking in at the front desk.
“The attitude of a lot of fishermen is just a different way of thinking,” said Pivarnik.
“It’s just a tone,” Mills told the commission on Feb. 10. “It’s not a huge thing, but for some reason it really irritates people. Feeling like a criminal – being treated like someone who isn’t is going to foot their bill. services.
Commissioner Hanke said the shipyard, unlike the shipyard, “is kind of a goose that lays golden eggs”, attracting a lot of big customers. “If we don’t do a good job with this customer service,” the port could lose customers. “We have Alaska breathing down our necks,” Hanke said. “Anything we can do to attract customers is a good idea. “
“You can send out any paper polls you want, but it’s the radio chatter that tells you the truth,” Mills said, referring to the fishermen’s practice of radio talking at sea.
The economic benefit of encouraging commercial boat work in Port Townsend goes beyond one’s own business, Mills said. The boat crews here for months of maintenance or repairs spend money on local businesses – Henery’s Hardware, restaurants, gas stations, hotels, Safeway – which benefits the economy of the entire city.
“The economic benefits of these large manned work boats are huge. They spend huge dollars here every day,” he said. “The biggest dollar we can spend in the harbor is working on ships in the harbor.”