Blue Ocean Environmental, the quest by locally connected environmentalist, entrepreneur and fishmonger Frank Allen to clean the world’s oceans, went online last weekend.
Allen launched the website — blueoceanenviro.com — to help call attention to ocean debris and abandoned vessels, starting with the fishing boat Cap’n Oscar at the Port of Astoria.
“Awareness is the issue,” said Allen, who is energetic, and at times frenetic, in his passion for oceans and rivers. “We have to let people know what’s going on.
“Since day one of mankind, we have used the oceans as a waste site.”
Allen is mostly known for Live Online Seafood, a company he created a decade ago, recycling fish heads, collars and other scraps not used by processors in Alaska, and shipping them to Asia for use in other foods.
Along with Blue Ocean Environmental’s website, Allen has created a GoFundMe page seeking $70,000 to recycle the Cap’n Oscar. Allen sees the abandoned 69-foot fishing boat as a pilot in his plan to clean the region’s — and eventually, the world’s — waterways of derelict vessels.
Allen came to the Port about three years ago, proposing an environmentally safe way of dismantling boats and ships at North Tongue Point and shipping metals to steel mills in Oregon and Washington state. The practice is usually associated with “shipbreaking,” a term used to describe the large-scale, haphazard dismantling of vessels in places like Alang, India, and Galveston, Texas.
Allen wanted to prove the environmental safety of his methods using the Cap’n Oscar, with hopes of developing Tongue Point into a larger ship-dismantling and training center that could be recreated around the country.
But his proposal never came to fruition, and the Cap’n Oscar sank multiple times before the Port had the boat taken out of the water and stored in one of the hangars at North Tongue Point.
“It’s the best site in the world to do this project, period,” Allen said. “And Clatsop County needs the work. And that can be our flagship site.”
Allen said any extra from the Cap’n Oscar cleanup fundraiser would go into more public exposure, courting investors to help with ship-dismantling and a separate GoFundMe page he created seeking $50,000 to survey the rocket debris from the Falcon 9, a reusable rocket that crashed off the California coast while attempting to land on a barge at sea. The rocket was built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., a company founded by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk developing rocket technology to reduce space travel costs.
“I like Elon Musk’s innovation, but he has to clean up his rockets, they have very harmful materials,” Allen said. “We gotta stop trashing the oceans.”
Allen’s efforts to clean up the Cap’n Oscar come as the state Marine Board has applied to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program for money to clean up the commercial fishing vessel Western, which sank near a public dock in Coos Bay.
“The hard lesson the Cap’n Oscar taught us was that it is much better to invest in disposition of a derelict vessel while there is opportunity to do so,” read a letter of support for the state’s application written by Matt McGrath, the Port’s operations manager. “Waiting for a vessel to founder only serves to exponentially increase costs, environmental damages and public distrust.”
Meg Gardner, the environmental programs coordinator for the state Marine Board, said the state’s application specifically seeks to clean up the Western, but would also help form the Abandoned and Derelict Commercial Vessel Task Force specific to the Oregon Coast.
Gardner said Oregon’s abandoned and derelict boat removal fund pales in comparison to Washington’s.
While the cost of removing a recreational boat can run about $2,500, Gardner said, the cost for a commercial boat can reach $20,000. And while both states have a fairly robust program for removing derelict recreational boats, “there’s really no good resource to remove vessels of (a large) size when they’re rotting and not in good condition anymore,” she said.
After Oregon and Washington spent more than $22 million cleaning up the sunken vessel Davy Crockett near Vancouver, Washington, in 2011, the states created the Columbia River Derelict Vessel Task Force, which identified 40 vessels of concern, many of them more than 100 feet long and with unknown levels of pollution.
A derelict vessel task force in Washington estimated more than 200 abandoned vessels in the state. Allen estimates about 300 in Oregon.
“To take care of all the derelict vessels in Oregon would be $30 million,” Allen said. “They spent that on the Davy Crockett.”
After taking care of abandoned vessels, Allen said a cradle-to-grave process should be created for each active ship to account for the eventual cost of disposal.
“If you do this right, and put green recycling shipyards around the world, you’ll create millions of sustainable jobs,” Allen said.