Mayors go to DC to lobby for Anacortes shipbuilder

The America’s Finest fishing vessel was built by Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes.

A waiver for the $75 million ship America’s Finest is headed to the president for a signature following approval from both chambers of Congress.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a waiver Tuesday that will allow the fishing vessel to be used in U.S. waters when it approved the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, according to a news release from U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s office.

The ship was built by Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes.

“It probably won’t sink in for a few days, but this is kind of one of the last major steps,” Dakota Creek Industries Vice President Mike Nelson said by phone Tuesday evening. “The morale is up.”

A waiver was needed to forgive the use of too much foreign-fabricated steel in the ship’s hull, a mistake that kept the ship from complying with the 1920 federal maritime law called the Jones Act.

Larsen said in the release that the vote is a victory for shipbuilder Dakota Creek and local jobs.

“Securing a Jones Act solution for Dakota Creek Industries has been a long-fought battle,” Larsen said in the release. “I appreciate the coordination with Senator Cantwell, Senator Sullivan and Rep. Don Young as we have worked nonstop to find avenues to save hundreds of jobs on the line.”

The Senate passed the same waiver earlier this month.

“Finally a win for Dakota Creek and the hardworking men and women who build fishing, Navy and other vessels in our state,” Sen. Maria Cantwell said in a statement emailed Tuesday.

Fishermen’s Finest, based in Kirkland, contracted with Dakota Creek to build the 264-foot catcher processor to replace two aging vessels in its fleet.

The ship features modern technology and safety improvements and stands to have the smallest carbon footprint of any fishing vessel used in waters off Alaska, Fishermen’s Finest officials have said.

The company previously announced plans to sell it abroad after multiple attempts to pass a waiver fell through. Fishermen’s Finest officials could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

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