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AGLO 1975 No. 75 - August 26, 1975
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OIL TANKERS ‑- NONPETROLEUM PRODUCTS ‑- OPERATION OF ON PUGET SOUND AND ADJACENT WATERS

Chapter 125, Laws of 1975, 1st Ex. Sess., relating to the operation of certain large tanker ships on Puget Sound and adjacent waters, does not apply to such vessels when used to carry nonpetroleum products such as wheat or other grains.

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                                                                 August 26, 1975

Honorable Don L. Talley
State Senator, 18th District
1583 Mt. Pleasant Road
Kelso, Washington 98626
                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1975 No. 75
Honorable Sid W. Morrison
State Senator, 15th District
Route 1, Box 220AA
Zillah, Washington 98953

Dear Sirs:

            By recent letters you have each requested our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Does chapter 125, Laws of 1975, 1st Ex. Sess., which relates to the operation of certain large tanker ships on Puget Sound and adjacent waters, apply to such vessels when used to carry nonpetroleum products such as wheat or other grains?

            We answer this question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            As earlier indicated in AGLO 1975 No. 67 [[to Donald H. Brazier, Chairman, Utilities & Transportation Commission on July 31, 1975 an Informal Opinion, AIR-75567]], copy enclosed, chapter 125, Laws of 1975, 1st Ex. Sess., relates to the operation of so-called "super-tankers" on Puget Sound and adjacent waters.  The basic substantive provision of the act is set forth in § 2, by which the legislature added the following new section to chapter 88.16 RCW, the "Pilotage Act":

            "Notwithstanding the provisions of RCW 88.16.070, any oil tanker, whether enrolled or registered, of fifty thousand deadweight tons or greater, shall be required to take a Washington state licensed pilot while navigating Puget Sound and adjacent waters and shall be liable for and pay pilotage rates pursuant to RCW 88.16.030 as now or hereafter amended."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]   In addition, by § 3, the legislature amended the "Pilotage Act" to include the following further regulatory provisions:

            "(1)Any oil tanker, whether enrolled or registered, of greater than one hundred and twenty-five thousand deadweight tons shall be prohibited from proceeding beyond a point east of a line extending from Discovery Island light south to New Dungeness light.

            "(2)An oil tanker, whether enrolled or registered, of forty to one hundred and twenty-five thousand deadweight tons may proceed beyond the points enumerated in subsection (1) if such tanker possesses all of the following standard safety features:

            "(a) Shaft horsepower in the ratio of one horsepower to each two and one‑half dead-weight tons; and

            "(b) Twin screws; and

            "(c) Double bottoms, underneath all oil and liquid cargo compartments; and

            "(d) Two radars in working order and operating, one of which must be collision avoidance radar; and

            "(e) Such other navigational position location systems as may be prescribed from time to time by the board of pilotage commissioners:

            "PROVIDED, That, if such forty to one hundred and twenty-five thousand deadweight ton tanker is in ballast or is under escort of a tug or tugs with an aggregate shaft horsepower equivalent to five percent of the deadweight tons of that tanker, subsection (2) of this section shall not apply:  PROVIDED FURTHER,That additional tug shaft horsepower equivalencies may be required under certain conditions as established by rule and regulation of the Washington utilities and transportation commission pursuant to chapter 34.04 RCW:  PROVIDED FURTHER, That a tanker of less than forty  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] thousand deadweight tons is not subject to the provisions of this act."  (Emphasis supplied.)1/

            Your question, as we understand it, assumes the potential presence on Puget Sound or adjacent waters of a tanker-type ship capable of carrying either oil or related products, or nonpetroleum products such as wheat or other grains.  It further assumes that the particular ship is either loaded with such nonpetroleum products or is empty but is intended to be so loaded for export when it arrives in port.  The question is whether, under such circumstances, the above quoted statutory prohibitions or restrictions will apply.

            In our opinion they will not.  In the first place, both §§ 2 and 3, supra, are by their own terms limited to "oil tankers" and we would not regard this term, in ordinary parlance, to include a tanker-type vessel carrying or intended to carry some other kind of cargo instead.  Moreover, we further note that the underlying purpose of the law, as spelled out in detail in § 1, is expressly keyed to the danger of spills resulting from the transportation of crude oil and refined petroleum products.  For your immediate reference, we here set forth the full text of this opening section of the act, as follows:

            "Because of the danger of spills, the legislature finds that the transportation of crude oil and refined petroleum products by tankers on Puget Sound and adjacent waters creates a great potential hazard to important natural resources of the state and to jobs and incomes dependent on these resources.

            "The legislature also recognizes Puget Sound and adjacent waters are a relatively confined salt water environment with irregular shorelines and therefore there is a greater than usual likelihood of long-term damage from any largeoil spill.

                         [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] "The legislature further recognizes that certain areas of Puget Sound and adjacent waters have limited space for maneuvering a large oil tanker and that these waters contain many natural navigational obstacles as well as a high density of commercial and pleasure boat traffic.

            "For these reasons, it is important that large oil tankers be piloted by highly skilled persons who are familiar with local waters and that such tankers have sufficient capability for rapid maneuvering responses.

            "It is therefore the intent and purpose of sections 2 and 3 of this 1975 act to decrease the likelihood of oil spills on Puget Sound and its shorelines by requiring all oil tankers above a certain size to employ Washington state licensed pilots and, if lacking certain safety and maneuvering capability requirements, to be escorted by a tug or tugs while navigating on certain areas of Puget Sound and adjacent waters."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            It is a well-settled principle of statutory construction that all laws passed by the legislature are to be construed with reference to their manifest object and purpose.  Roza Irrigation Dist. v. State, 80 Wn.2d 633, 497 P.2d 166 (1972).  A clearly stated legislative purpose should not be enlarged upon by judicial construction unless such a construction is absolutely required.  Longview Co. v. Lynn, 6 Wn.2d 507, 108 P.2d 365 (1940).  Or, as was more recently explained in Alderwood Water Dist. v. Pope & Talbot, 62 Wn.2d 319, 321, 382 P.2d 639 (1963):

            "On numerous occasions this court has indicated that a statute should be construed as a whole in order to ascertain legislative purpose, and thus avoid unlikely, strained or absurd consequences which could result from a literal reading.  That the spirit or the purpose of legislation should prevail over the express but inept language is an ancient adage of the law.  Eyston v. Studd (England, 1574), 2 Plowden 460, 464:

                         [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] "`. . . intent of statutes is more to be regarded and pursued than the precise letter of them, for oftentimes things, which are within the words of statutes, are out of the purview of them, which purview extends no further than the intent of the makers of the act, and the best way to construe an act of Parliament is according to the intent rather than according to the words. . . ."

            It is also well-established that in determining legislative intent, reference may properly be made to the title given to an act by the legislature which passed it.  See, e.g.,State ex rel. Seymour v. Superior Court, 168 Wash. 361, 12 P.2d 394 (1932).  In the instant case, the legislative title to chapter 125, supra, is:  "AN ACT Relating to water pollutionfrom petroleum spills."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Moreover, Article II, § 19 of our state constitution adds further significance to a bill title such as this by providing that:

            "No bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title."

            Thus, for chapter 125,supra, to be construed as applying to tanker-type ships carrying, or intended to carry, products other than petroleum in one form or another would raise a constitutional question in view of the limited scope of its title.  Accord,Price v. Evergreen Cemetery Co., 57 Wn.2d 352, 357 P.2d 702 (1960).  And, as explained inSoundview Pulp Co. v. Taylor, 21 Wn.2d 261, 150 P.2d 839 (1944),

            ". . . where a statute is open to two constructions, one of which will render it constitutional and the other unconstitutional or open to grave doubt in this respect, the former construction and not the latter is to be adopted. . . ."

            Therefore, for all of the above stated reasons, we answer your question in the negative; i.e., we conclude that chapter 125, Laws of 1975, 1st Ex. Sess., is not  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] applicable to tanker-type ships when used to carry nonpetroleum products such as wheat or other grains.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/In AGLO 1975 No. 67 [[to Donald H. Brazier, Chairman, Utilities & Transportation Commission on July 31, 1975 an Informal Opinion, AIR-75567]], supra, we concluded that because of the governor's veto of a later section of the act, § 4, the Washington utilities and transportation commission is not authorized to adopt rules and regulations governing the operation of oil tankers or their escorting tug boats on Puget Sound and adjacent waters ‑ notwithstanding the language appearing in the second proviso to § 3, as above quoted.

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