Sen. Cantwell urges support for shipbuilding on Dakota Creek tour

By:  Anacortes American – Kimberly Jackson

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell toured Dakota Creek Industries last week to see the progress on a new fishing vessel. During her stop, Cantwell also highlighted the need to support Washington shipbuilding jobs and the importance of industry.

“In a global marketplace, Dakota Creek has embraced innovation,” Cantwell said in a press release. “That’s why this family business continues to grow. Dakota Creek is a true success story for job creation.”

Dakota Creek previously landed a roughly $30 million contract with Blue North Fisheries, a fishing and fish-processing company out of Seattle, to build one of the most environmentally-friendly and technologically-advanced fishing vessels in the world.

Blue North specializes in frozen-at-sea products. The 191-foot boat was developed for Alaska cod hook-and-line fishing. It was designed by Norwegian company Skipsteknisk AS and should be completed in late 2014. The contract includes an option for a second vessel.

Cantwell wrote legislation signed into law in December 2010 that helped lead to the construction of the Blue North. Her legislation creates a cooperative for the freezer longline fishery that eliminates the race for fish and enables companies to harvest more value from each catch. This helped spur investment in new fishing vessels with greater processing and storage capacity.

“I feel like we’re moving forward with the right strategy (for fisheries) and the right vessels,” Cantwell said during the tour last Wednesday. “And it’s going to help the local economy. There’s a lot of manufacturing jobs, a lot of hard hats out there working on this project.”

She said it’s important to keep up the level of work in the industry and to cultivate experience in shipbuilding. She hopes to bring more awareness to the shipbuilding needs of the U.S.

Cantwell was joined on a tour of construction on the F/V Blue North freezer longliner by Mike Nelson, vice president at Dakota Creek Industries, and Kenny Down, president and CEO at Blue North Fisheries.

Construction of the state-of-the-art vessel helped create 50 new jobs at Dakota Creek Industries and support nearly 100 family wage jobs in Skagit County. Cantwell said Washington has a proud maritime heritage and new contracts are good for shipbuilding and fishing jobs in the state.

In the meantime, work continues at Dakota Creek on two Navy vessels. Cantwell toured one that is in progress in the shipyard.

Dakota Creek got word in October 2011 it was awarded a $74.1 million contract for an ocean class Auxiliary General Oceanographic Research ship. The contract included an option for a second vessel, and the company got word it was awarded another $71 million contract in February 2012.

The AGOR ships will be well-equipped modern oceanographic research platforms capable of satisfying a wide range of research activities conducted by academic institutions and national laboratories involved in oceanographic research.