Cantwell Tours New Freezer Longliner Construction at Anacortes Shipbuilder

New fishing vessel helped create 50 new jobs in Skagit County

ANACORTES, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) toured Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes to view progress on a new fishing vessel. During her stop, Cantwell also highlighted the need to support Washington state shipbuilding jobs.

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.

“Washington state has a proud maritime heritage,” said Cantwell. “New contracts are good for shipbuilding and fishing jobs here in Washington state. The Blue North is an example of how catch share programs can help fishermen add stability and profitability to an industry and allow companies to reinvest in new vessel construction. That’s why I worked with fishers to pass legislation to allow the freezer longliners to do just that.  

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

Cantwell wrote legislation (S. 1609) 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 state of the art fishing vessels designed for modern fishing industry needs like greater processing and storage capacity.

From 2004 to 2009, direct shipbuilding and ship repair jobs across America jumped 12 percent. Washington state has more than 5,300 workers and 87 firms in the maritime construction and repair industry. In the Greater Seattle area alone, there are eight major shipyards and more than  20 smaller yards.

A member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, Cantwell has worked to pass legislation that supports the growth of Washington’s shipbuilding industry. Along with her law that led to investments in groundbreaking longline fishery boats, Cantwell helped pass legislation to help other fleets replace their aging vessels as well, such as the Alaska groundfish fleet.

Cantwell has also been a leader in highlighting the need for multiple icebreakers to increase the nation’s ability to maintain a presence in the fast-changing Arctic. Language she inserted into the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2012 prevents the decommissioning and scrapping of the Polar Star’s currently inactive sister ship Polar Sea until a business case analysis is completed. 

The Polar Sea is currently docked in Seattle and was scheduled to be dismantled in early 2013, after a planned 2012 dismantling was postponed thanks to an agreement with the Coast Guard Cantwell helped secure in June, 2012. Scrapping the Polar Sea would have left the United States with only one operational icebreaker, the Healy, which only has medium icebreaking capability. The Polar Sea’s sister ship, the Polar Star, is active after years in inactive or caretaker status.

Refurbishing a large icebreaking vessel like the Polar Sea can take roughly five years and employ upwards of 300 workers. Building a new vessel can take eight to ten years and employs more than 1,000 workers.

In September 2011, Cantwell and Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) introduced legislation to prevent the decommissioning and scrapping of the Polar Sea, called The Preserve Our Large Arctic Response Capability (POLAR-C) Act of 2011