PORT TOWNSEND — Port of Port Townsend commissioners have chosen to sunset the port’s seasonal discount program for its 70- to 75-ton boats in the work yard due to capacity issues in the yard.
The seasonal discount ended in March. It will not return in October.
“No action from the commission today means that the seasonal rate in the 75-ton yard has sunsetted as of the end of March, so the current rate card has no discount going into the fall 2022-2023 season,” said Eron Berg, Port of Port Townsend executive director.
The discount offered 50 percent off monthly rates at the work yard if the rates were paid in advance. Berg said that could mean the difference between a customer paying nearly $800 a month to $400 a month to store their boat in the work yard while they work on it.
The discount was offered only to customers in good standing with the port (no past-due notices of missing payments) and applied only so long as there is daily yard work done on the vessel.
Two of the three port commissioners agreed to sunsetting the seasonal discount and were interested in exploring other rate changes.
“I would rather see the seasonal rate discount sunset,” Commissioner Pete Hanke said. ” I think it would be good to look at some of the regional rates … it seemed like our daily storage rate was rather high … and we have previously discussed adjusting what our rates are to bring them more in line with the other ports.”
“I feel too that while it’s great to have a boatyard full, it’s not great to have a boatyard where things are static,” Commissioner Carol Hasse said.
Hasse liked the idea of shortening the rate timeline or decreasing the percentage off but wanted to wait to see how things turn out without a seasonal rate.
Several ideas were considered before settling on allowing the discount to sunset, including no longer offering the seasonal discount to incentivize project completion, raising storage rates after 60 days if no work had been done on the boat, limit the number of boats allowed in storage, sunset seasonal discount for this season and then do a comparative rate study or consider reducing monthly rates to be competitive without a discount.
Commissioner Pam Patranek was the only one in favor of keeping the discount and offered other ideas to address the capacity issues.
“I don’t think my arguments for seasonal rates have been understood,” Patranek said.
“We need better customer service. We need to move long-term storage boats out of our works area. We need to keep our winning rates, keep our client base, consider boatyard expansion and jetty disruption, and we need to consider the economic bubble we’re in.”
The seasonal discount was implemented in 2018 for the 75-ton boats to keep the work yard filled and create more revenue for the Port of Port Townsend and surrounding marine trades, which were struggling.
The rationale for the seasonal rate, according to port staff, was to incentivize the use and occupancy of the work yard. Port officials also wanted to establish a rate that would increase customer access and use of the yard until it was full.
The latter has been proven to be a huge success.
As of April, the work yard is at 103 percent capacity and there is a long waiting list for customers looking to do work or have work done on their boats.
However, as the yard has filled, turnover of projects has slowed significantly, frustrating longtime port customers, and slowing down business for the marine trades since many of the boats are just utilizing the yard for storage rather than work.
According to data collected by port staff over the last five years, this past March was the work yard’s busiest month.
It led to several difficulties maneuvering and accommodating additional vessels.
Similar issues began to arise in 2021, with customers unable to schedule haulouts to perform necessary work.
Data showed there have been 120 haulouts for 75-ton boats to date this year.
The port had its most haulouts of ships this size in 2019 with 758 and the fewest number of haulouts in 2021 with 640.
Peak haulouts occurred in June 2017 with 100 haulouts that month and just 16 haulouts that December.
That data suggests 75-ton haulouts increased when the work yard was at its capacity following the adoption of the seasonal rate.
This time last year, the port generated more than $337,000 in haulouts.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].