Shipbreaking is back. The Port of Astoria has been approached by Blue Ocean Environmental of Portland with a proposal to dismantle ships at Tongue Point.

As Edward Stratton reported in his Wednesday article, in 1999 Cresmont Technical Services of Seattle approached the Division of State Lands about shipbreaking at Tongue Point. Earlier in the 1990s, there was a separate proposal to dismantle ships at the Port of Astoria docks. Then-Port Commissioner June Spence remembers being skeptical of that concept, which never came to fruition.

Globally, shipbreaking is big business. Most of it happens in developing nations with lax environmental regulations. The U.S. Navy has facilities dedicated to ship dismantling. The Navy’s operations are carried out in sealed facilities.

Ships contain a number of toxic components, including PCBs. That is one of the hazards of dismantling a ship next to a body of water.

The other drawback is how some shipbreakers have taken the most valuable material off a ship and abandoned the hulk, leaving the host property owner to clean up the mess.

If the Port of Astoria continues its discussions with Blue Ocean Environmental, the Port must probe that company’s environmental record and its financial backing.

Twice and for good reason, proposals of shipbreaking have been rejected at the mouth of the Columbia River. If Port commissioners read their own history, they will find good reason to be wary of this newest proposal.

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