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Alaska Pilots Board Fines Greenpeace Ship $15K for 2012 Actions

By Chris Klint, Senior Digital Producer, cklint@ktuu.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:13:48 PM AKST
Updated On: Dec 13 2013 03:01:18 PM AKST
Alaska Pilots Board Fines Greenpeace Ship $15K for 2012 Actions

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -

A Greenpeace ship has been fined $15,000 by Alaska’s Board of Marine Pilots for traversing waters near Point Hope in which a pilot was required during the summer of 2012.

In a Thursday statement, Dru Fenster -- a spokesperson for the state Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development -- says the fine pertains to activities by the 236-foot M/V Esperanza between July 22 and July 27, 2012.

“As a foreign-flagged vessel larger than 65 feet, state law requires the employment of a state-licensed marine pilot on board for transit through Alaska’s compulsory pilotage waters,” Fenster wrote. “Entering compulsory waters without a pilot is a criminal violation and is subject to fines up to $15,000 for the first violation and $30,000 for the second violation.”

According to Greenpeace’s website, the Esperanza -- built to withstand heavy ice -- initially served as a Russian Navy firefighting vessel in the 1980s. It subsequently changed hands several times, becoming the largest and latest addition to Greenpeace’s fleet in 2002.

“At 72 meters length, and a top speed of 16 knots, the ship is ideal for fast and long range work,” officials wrote.

Crystal Dooley, a spokesperson for the pilots board, says the Esperanza’s crew requested a pilot in Dutch Harbor and Kodiak, but not Point Hope. State officials received a complaint July 26, and the board was notified Oct. 30.

“The vessel transited and anchored within three nautical miles off Point Hope for approximately two days,” Dooley wrote in an email to Channel 2.

Greenpeace International counsel Daniel Simons confirms the ship’s visit to western Alaska last year in an email, but disputes whether the spirit behind the state piloting law should apply to the Esperanza’s Point Hope stop since it didn’t navigate nearby Marryat Inlet.

“This regulation states, in relevant part, that pilotage is compulsory at all entrances from seaward to Alaska bays, sounds, rivers, straits, inlets, harbors, ports, or other estuaries,” Simons wrote. “The Board appears to believe a pilot should have been taken because Point Hope is near Marryat Inlet, even though the entrance to that inlet is more than 20 nautical miles away from places the Esperanza visited.”

Dooley says Greenpeace can dispute the fine by filing a notice of defense with the Office of Administrative Hearings, then appeal it in court.

For Greenpeace’s part, Simons says the group is considering how to move forward.

“We will review our options once we receive information requested from the Board which will clarify the objectives of the regulation,” Simons wrote.