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ERTV History

Since 1999, an emergency response towing vessel has been on station at Neah Bay first under contract to the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) until June 30, 2010. In the early years, various funding sources were used to put the vessel on station for the winter months. From 2001 to 2008, the Washington Legislature appropriated funding for the emergency response towing vessel during those winter months, and in 2008 the Legislature appropriated full-year funding for the emergency response towing vessel. In 2009, the Washington State Legislature enacted SB 5344 requiring: “By July 1, 2010, the owner or operator of a Covered Vessel transiting to or from a Washington port through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, except for transits extending no further west than Race Rocks Light, shall establish and fund an emergency response system (ERS) that provides for an emergency response towing vessel [ERTV] to be stationed at Neah Bay.”

To legally enter Washington State waters, bound for a Washington port, certain cargo, passenger, commercial fishing industry and other commercial vessels of 300 or more gross tons and all tank vessels and tank barges (Covered Vessels) are required to file and maintain with the Washington State Department of Ecology an approved oil spill contingency plan for the containment and cleanup of oil spills. The law (ESSB 5344) now requires that these oil spill contingency plans also address the ERS and ERTV. See also Code of Washington (RCW) 88.46.130 – Emergency Response System.

A Covered Vessel is defined in RCW 88.46.010(5) as “… a tank vessel, cargo vessel, or passenger vessel.” The RCW defines a “tank vessel” as “a ship that is constructed or adapted to carry, or that carries, oil in bulk as cargo or cargo residue, and that: (a) Operates on the waters of the state; or (b) Transfers oil in a port or place subject to the jurisdiction of this state.” The RCW also defines a “cargo vessel” as “… a self-propelled ship in commerce, other than a tank vessel or a passenger vessel, of three hundred or more gross tons, including but not limited to, commercial fish processing vessels and freighters.” The RCW defines “passenger vessel” as “… a ship of three hundred or more gross tons with a fuel capacity of at least six thousand gallons carrying passengers for compensation.”

In accordance with this state mandate, a maritime industry stakeholders group, through meetings and negotiations, developed a plan and method to provide for the ERTV as required by the Act. The stakeholders group also engaged in a process to identify and select a supplier for the ERTV. The stakeholders group then formed the ERTV Compliance Group (ERTV CG) in order to establish the means and organization to provide a year-round ERTV at Neah Bay and to make it available for the owners and operators of Covered Vessels and contingency plan holders to identify and include the ERTV in their required oil spill contingency plans. Foss Maritime, in particular, JEFFREY FOSS was selected to be the first ERTV under a ten-year charter that ended June 30, 2020. Through an open bidding process in early 2020, the ERTV CG again selected Foss Maritime, in particular, BARBARA FOSS to be the ERTV under a new ten-year charter. Although JEFFREY FOSS and BARBARA FOSS were under the charter the named ERTV, various other Foss Maritime tugs have shared in this service.

Under a separate service agreement between the ERTV CG and the Marine Exchange of Puget Sound, the Marine Exchange provides all administrative services, including invoicing, collection of vessel assessments and payment of ERTV expenses, etc. The Marine Exchange is a member-based, non-profit corporation equipped for and experienced in providing information regarding vessels transiting Washington waters, providing various communications services and sharing information with customers as needed.

Only Covered Vessels that transit to or from a Washington port through the Strait of Juan de Fuca are subject to the ERTV requirement and are required to share in its cost as part of their Washington State oil spill response plan coverage; however, the ERTV must be made available to any vessel in the transit area needing assistance. The assessment structure for Covered Vessels enrolled with the ERTV is based on the size of the vessel (using deadweight tonnage as shown in Lloyd’s List) and the oil capacity (using worst-case discharge as shown in the U.S. Coast Guard-approved vessel response plan). Rate schedules for tank vessels and non-tank vessels differ; each is provided in the links below.

When assistance of the ERTV is needed, the ERTV must be hired under a separate contract by the vessel’s owner, operator or duly authorized agent. The ERTV may also be hired by the U.S. Coast Guard or the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Services of the ERTV may be acquired by contacting Foss Dispatch (206-281-3800) directly.

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