The Port of Newport Commission learned Tuesday evening that ships transporting Oregon logs to China will most likely not bring invasive species of critters or plants to the waters of Yaquina Bay. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Ryan Hoff said that based on the shallowness of Yaquina Bay, and limited turn around areas, the ships that will carry Oregon’s raw logs to China will be smaller and likely be among only three to five specific ships that will visit Yaquina Bay. Teevin Brothers, a Rainier-based export company, told the commission that they are very familiar with the ships they will be contracting with and that they have high confidence that those ships will be properly managed to ensure that bilge water taken on in China will be long gone by the time they arrive in Yaquina Bay. It’s a process called bilge water exchange which takes place far out at sea.
The only discomfort the port commissioners seem to have was that bilge water regulations are currently in a state of flux between Oregon and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. Hoff told them that state and Coast Guard inspectors are not adequately checking records or testing bilge water of ships arriving in American ports to verify that bilge pumping operations are, in fact, carried out properly. Hoff said, “It’s not that we don’t want to inspect every vessel, but the Coast Guard has a lot of Homeland Security duties they are mandated to pursue and Oregon state government revenue cutbacks make it impossible for me to meet every ship that docks on our shores. I’m pretty much the whole inspection team.” Hoff reiterated that it should provide some comfort for the commission to know that Teevin Brothers has a tight business relationship with the ships expected to haul the logs out of the Port of Newport, and that they know they’re doing it right.
Port Commission Chair JoAnne Barton asked Hoff if Hatfield Marine Science Center might provide some graduate students to learn inspection techniques and protocols so they could inspect incoming vessels if he couldn’t be there himself. He said although HMSC students might be effective at distributing educational materials to captains and crews, the actual taking of samples and documenting records would be problematic since the students would not be sworn officers in charge of what would amount to be “evidence” of record keeping and whether it reflected the true condition of the vessel they were inspecting. “It might not hold up in court,” said Hoff. “In fact, it probably wouldn’t.”
Hoff said it comes down to working closely with the exporting operation, in this case Teevin Brothers, who has a good reputation in the industry. Hoff said it will be a few more years before the federal and state governments adopt new regulations that will eventually require the actual treatment of the bilge water taken on at the last port. In other words, not only bilge water exchange with open ocean water but also using chemicals to ensure that there are no surviving critters or plants in the bilge tanks. Again, that’s a number of years away.
Meanwhile Teevin Brothers told New Lincoln County they hope to have all their equipment and further International Terminal improvements in place in time for log exports to begin near the end of the year. He said the operation will be efficient, clean, and well run with minimal impacts on the surrounding area. They say they’re excited about the Port of Newport coming back on line as an exporting port after a twenty year absence from West Coast commerce. When up and running, the log exports are expected to create around 25 family wage jobs at the port, swelling to 45 when log ships are being loaded.