Tulalips lobby Navy to give tug contract to state shipyard

TULALIP — The Tulalip Tribes are among several Indian tribes lobbying the Navy to build its next fleet of tugboats in the Northwest.

The J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corp. in Tacoma employs about 100 shipbuilders, has a journeyman program for American Indians and employs 30 percent of its workforce from various tribes, according to the Tulalips.

“J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding has supported the Native American and local economy with a family business for 87 years,” said Teri Gobin, director of the Tulalip Tribal Employment Rights Office.

Additionally, if the shipyard gets the contract for the new tugs, it plans to build the first battery-powered tug in the Navy’s fleet, Tulalip spokesman George White said. This would help to meet President Barack Obama’s directive to cut use of fossil fuels by the Navy’s fleet at least 50 percent by 2020.

The shipyard recently delivered four boats to the Navy and plans to deliver two more soon, said Jonathan Platt, vice president of J.M. Martinac.

Still, more apparently are needed.

“The Navy has said to us that they would like to have five additional tugs of the 802 class to replace older tugs that are currently in operation,” Platt said, adding that Naval officials did not specify who they want to build the boats.

Officials with the U.S. Navy Northwest region declined comment on the issue.

The shipyard names its boats after Indian tribes and if it wins the contract plans to lobby the Navy to name its next boat the Tulalip, Platt said.

“That was the next obvious choice; they’re close by, they’re in the Northwest region, they’re indigenous to the Northwest,” he said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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