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11/17/2012
Pirate vessel still needs disposal

By BECKY BOHRER

Associated Press

JUNEAU — The federal government has yet to dispose of a ship seized for illegal fishing last year, drawing harsh words from an Alaska senator.

Julie Speegle, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the process has taken longer than expected, as officials needed to ensure the statement of work for prospective bidders met legal, environmental protection and logistical requirements.

The agency earlier this year issued a solicitation to gauge interest in scrapping the Bangun Perkasa, but Speegle said Friday that the agency has no firm date yet for when it will seek bids.

The U.S. Coast Guard in September 2011 seized the Bangun Perkasa about 2,600 miles southwest of Kodiak after receiving a report that it was fishing illegally with a drift net. Authorities reported finding more than 30 tons of squid and 54 shark carcasses.

The vessel has been docked at Dutch Harbor, where it remains.

Shortly after the seizure, Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, called on the Coast Guard to sink the vessel. A Coast Guard spokeswoman at the time said a decision on disposition would be left to NOAA.

Earlier this year, a federal judge issued a forfeiture decree, officially turning the Bangun Perkasa over to the federal government. It is currently in the custody of NOAA’s law enforcement division.

Begich, in a statement Friday, referred to the ship as a "rust bucket that nobody wants."

"NOAA has spent almost a million dollars berthing this wreck to date, probably more than they’ll ever make on its sale," he said. "They could have saved a lot of taxpayer money by cleaning out any oil on board, towing it into deep water far offshore and letting the Coast Guard have some target practice."

Speegle said it’s not necessarily unusual for this case to have taken as long as it has. She called the disposal and contracting process complicated.