Ferry owner avoids seizure, pays ‘dockage’ fee to Port of Olympia

Berthed behind the nearly 600 foot-long cargo ship Enishi, the former Washington state ferry Evergreen State has been moored at the Port of Olympia for more than a year.
Berthed behind the nearly 600 foot-long cargo ship Enishi, the former Washington state ferry Evergreen State has been moored at the Port of Olympia for more than a year. sbloom@theolympian.com

The owner of the former Washington state ferry that has been docked at the Port of Olympia for more than a year was on the verge of losing the ferry to a potential Port of Olympia public auction for unpaid bills, but he paid his bill in full Thursday, a port spokeswoman said.

Gregory Jones of Jones Broadcasting paid about $8,000 he owed in unpaid bills Thursday afternoon, said Jennie Foglia-Jones.

Port of Olympia emails obtained by The Olympian on Wednesday showed that he had owed the port for “dockage” fees since April. The ferry owner also missed a payment last year, according to the emails.

Port executive director Sam Gibboney and marine terminal director Len Faucher were unavailable for comment Thursday about how they will manage the relationship with Jones going forward.

Foglia-Jones said the owner’s plan is still to transport the vessel to Florida, and despite the previously missed payments, she said Jones “has been in communication with port staff all along.”

Jones Broadcasting paid $300,000 for The Evergreen State ferry in 2017.

Before Thursday’s announcement, emails requested by the paper showed marine terminal director Faucher had emailed an update to port executive director Gibboney on May 2.

“Our next timeline according to the delinquency notice is 5/17, at which time we can arrest the vessel if it comes to that,” Faucher writes. “As ugly as that process could be, the presumed value of the asset sold will cover our costs and revenues associated to berthing the vessel, and, as of now, there is no current opportunity lost to having it tied up alongside.”

Faucher told The Olympian Wednesday that if the owner did not pay by the end of the week, the port could seize the vessel and put it up for public auction.

“At the end of the day, we are responsible to taxpayers and can’t give away public money,” Faucher said Wednesday.

Jones Broadcasting’s first missed a payment with the port happened early in the relationship.

“In July of last year (2018), he went past due and received this same (delinquency) notice and quickly paid and has remained on time in payments until April,” Faucher said in his update to Gibboney.

In separate emails, the port reminded owner Jones about the delinquency. Jones replied that he has an unspecified medical issue.

“Currently, as the result, I have no voice,” Jones writes. “... With that said, we are working hard to get things moved, but have run into an issue that we are trying to work through as fast as a possible.”

He later writes that “my doctor is saying I will need surgery,” but adds that he is also getting a second opinion.

Faucher said the owner has articulated a plan to hire a captain and transport the ferry to Florida.

The ferry arrived at the port in April 2018 and was expected to stay for only two months.

The Olympian reported in March that The Evergreen State, at the time of its sale, was the state’s oldest ferry at 63. Built in 1954, it was powered by surplus drive motors from a Navy destroyer escort and served on several routes, including Seattle to Bainbridge Island and San Juan Islands inter-island routes, according to the state.