Big Ship Gets a Warm Welcome at Port of Olympia

On its first visit, Macaw Arrow carries tons of ‘fracking sands’ bound for oil fields

By Rolf Boone, February 19, 2014, The Olympian

About 40 people, a mix of longshore workers, Port of Olympia commissioners and crew members, gathered aboard the Macaw Arrow Tuesday afternoon to welcome the ship on its maiden voyage to Olympia.


The nearly 700-foot ship was built in Japan, then made its way to China, where it picked up slightly more than 7,000 bags of ceramic proppants, sometimes referred to as fracking sands.


After unloading the proppants, the ship will head to Portland to load soda ash and then will deliver the ash to Chile, marine terminal director Jim Knight said.


The port typically organizes a reception for a ship that calls on the port for the first time. As part of the reception, a port commissioner presents a plaque to the ship’s captain to commemorate the moment.


Commissioners Bill McGregor and George Barner were on hand, and McGregor presented the plaque to Captain Nelson Joseph Ambosta of Mumbai, India, a 31-year veteran of the shipping business and a captain for the past eight years. He oversees a crew of about 20, mostly from India, he said.


“We wish you wind at the back and smooth sailing ahead,” McGregor told the captain and audience on the navigation deck of the ship.


Commissioner Sue Gunn was absent Tuesday due to a conflict with her schedule, port spokeswoman Kathleen White said.


Importing fracking sands has become big business for the port, the “super sacks” filling the marine terminal warehouse before the contents of those sacks are shipped on rail to the booming oil exploration areas of North Dakota. More than a 1,000 railroad cars left the port last year, the highest in its history.


But some people also have become concerned about the port importing a product that supports the fossil fuel industry.


“The Port of Olympia is importing fracking materials that dig our climate crisis hole deeper,” Mike Coday and Peggy Bruton of Chehalis said in a letter to The Olympian last year.


The Macaw Arrow is set to leave the port Wednesday.

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