Saturday, October 16, 2021
Oct. 16, 2021

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Port of Kalama reaches settlement over wave that damaged marina

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LONGVIEW — The Port of Kalama has reached a settlement for the April 2020 wave caused by a quickly moving ship that damaged the port’s marina.

Port Executive Director Mark Wilson told port commissioners Wednesday while the port and the owners of the container ship SM Mumbai, Korea Tonnage #19 Shipping Co., “negotiated a financial solution some time ago, it just took us a while to get the rest of the paperwork to line up.”

Korea Tonnage #19 Shipping Co. is not admitting fault, but agreed to pay the port about $770,000 for damage done to the docks. Repairs have been completed.

The port filed a $3 million claim against in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon seeking to recover damage to the port docks, wharves and related structures. It estimated another $2 million in damage to private vessels, but boat owners would have to file their own court claim, seek to join the port’s action or file a claim directly with the vessel operator.

While the marina is sheltered from the Columbia River by a breakwater jetty, the passing vessel caused a swell and suction of the water which affected the marina between 4 and 5 a.m. one day in April 2020. Some boats in the marina were thrust up and stranded on top of the docks. After reviewing security video and cargo vessel tracking information, the port identified container ship SM Mumbai as the suspect vessel. The tracking system recorded the ship going more than 15 knots, or about 17.3 mph.

There is no set speed limit on the river, but vessel operators must comply with federal regulations that say the speed must be safe in light of surrounding circumstances.

The SM Mumbai is a Liberian-flagged container ship built in 2009. It is about 853 feet long by 106 feet wide, according to the ship tracking website MarineTraffic. The Columbia River ship channel is 600 feet wide.

Wilson said the port’s insurance company will get reimbursed from the sum first, because the insurance company fronted the port the money to make repairs right away. The port recently spent $4.5 million to upgrade and renovate the marina, which has 222 slips.

While that settlement does not apply to individual boat owners who had their property damaged, Wilson said the marina tenants hopefully will have luck with individual claims as well, based on how willing the owners were to work with the port.

About 50 to 100 boats suffered hull damage because the wake caused them to slam against marina walkways, slip structures, dolphins and other vessels, according to court documents. Of those boats, approximately two dozen were completely torn from their moorings, suffering grounding damage and the risk of sinking.

The commissioners also heard some public vehicle access to the beach at the port has been shut down temporarily, because the dry weather and loose sand is creating traction problems.

Economic Development Manager Eric Yakovich said one or two vehicles are getting stuck per day, so while there still is some access where the old road was and the sand is packed down, the rest will be closed until winter rains compact the sand again.

“It’s becoming a safety hazard,” he said. “People are going way too fast. We had to put a stop to it.”

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