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Foss Maritime confirmed Tuesday it’s finalizing negotiations with a Netherlands-based company to build at least 10 tugboats at its shipyard in Rainier. The deal could inject millions of dollars into the local economy.

The Seattle-based company announced that it has reached a memorandum of understanding with Damen Shipyards to build the first four in a series of several tugs starting in 2019 in Rainier.

The project would more than double the number of employees at the shipyard, from 12 currently to about 25 to 30 workers, according to the company. Employment reached 40 workers a few years ago but fell after the completion of two major arctic tugs.

Foss Director of Engineering Michael Minnig said the two companies have been negotiating for about a year on a deal to jointly build the “assist tugboats.” Minnig would not confirm how much each tugboat would cost to construct because the two sides are still negotiating.

Just one arctic tugboat built at Foss’ Rainier shipyard in 2014 to 2015 cost about $20 million, according to the company. However, those 132-foot arctic tugs are larger than the 91-foot assist tugs Foss would build in partnership with Damen.

And unlike the arctic tugs, the assist tugs won’t be built to sail through miles of icy ocean, Minnig said. The “escort” tugs are designed for coastal harbors, where they will assist barges, tankers and other vessels through difficult maneuvering or docking scenarios.

Foss will work with Damen to modify its assist tug design to meet U.S. federal regulations, including provisions on sourcing materials from American suppliers, Minnig said.

Damen and Foss have previously collaborated on projects to build boats in Louisiana, he added.

Foss expanded the Rainier shipyard by 11,000 square feet in 2012 to accommodate construction of the arctic tugs, and it isn’t likely that it will need to undergo another expansion. However, Foss will be “making some improvements” to the existing yard to fit the needs of the new project, Minnig said. Some construction materials may have to be stored off-site, he added.

The new assist tugs will expand the Foss fleet and be available for purchase on the open market, he said.

“This partnership … means we can strengthen our fleet while meeting the demands of our customers, and at the same time Damen has the opportunity to market their innovative tug designs in the U.S,” John Parrott, Foss President and CEO, said in a prepared statement.

Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole said construction of the arctic tugs a few years ago provided a healthy boost for the city, and he’s looking forward to seeing that economic activity again.

“Economically it’s great for Rainier; we couldn’t be more excited,” Cole said Tuesday. “(Foss workers) are spending money here in town, and (it’s good) not only for Rainier, but I’m sure the region from Clatskanie to Longview.”


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