ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Sink it or scrap it? That's the choice facing federal officials who are now in charge of disposing of the Bangun Perkasa, the pirate fishing boat the Coast Guard seized last year that now sits in Dutch Harbor awaiting its fate.
According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesperson Julie Speegle, the Bangun Perkasa has cost nearly $220,000 in services like moorage fees, security and maintenance. The Coast Guard also incurred costs to rid the ship of rats and transport it to Dutch Harbor.
The vessel was turned over to NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement after a federal judge issued a decree of forfeiture last month. NOAA is trying to determine the best option to get rid of the ship -- and while there has been talk of sinking the vessel or seeking bids for scrapping it, the agency says it is considering all options.
"It is going to take some time to gather all of the necessary information in order to make a decision on how the vessel will be disposed," Sherrie Tinsley-Myers with the Office of Law Enforcement said in a statement. "We have to ensure that all of the applicable laws are followed for the disposal and ensure that any appropriate permits are acquired."
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) pushed for the sinking of the Bangun Perkasa after it was seized and says it is still the best option. He points to the derelict Japanese vessel the Coast Guard sank last week -- the first large piece of tsunami debris that drifted into Alaska waters.
"What we saw this last week is that the Coast Guard has the capacity to do this -- so let's make sure they have the full capacity with pirate ships that are coming into our waters, stealing our fish, and we'll save taxpayers a lot of money," Begich said. "At the end of the day we'll solve the problem for everybody."
In addition to saving taxpayers money, Begich says sinking seized vessels would also send a message to illegal fishermen.