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Repeat offender poses as worker, tries to steal fishing vessel from Ballard shipyard

The North Sea fishing vessel. (Doug Dixon)

Car theft has become a common crime in Seattle, but ship theft may be the next trend among offenders; a woman in Ballard attempted to steal a fishing vessel from a shipyard earlier this month.

Doug Dixon, general manager of Pacific Fishermen Shipyard and PFI Marine Electric just off Shilshole Avenue, said the crime was carefully-planned.

He said that a woman who appears to be homeless and spends time around the shipyard took a hardhat from a construction site next door and used it to gain access to the shipyard.

“She looked like a worker coming into the yard, so nobody questioned her,” Dixon said.

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With the hardhat disguise, she climbed aboard Pacific Fishermen’s $12 million North Sea — a 123-foot, 400-ton fishing vessel that Dixon described as “a big sister” to the Northwestern on the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch.”

Soon, work crews in the North Sea’s engine room were shocked to hear the vessel’s 16-cylinder diesel engine turn over. They ran up to the wheelhouse, found the intruder, and chased her off the ship.

Police arrested the attempted boat thief on two felonies, but she was released 24 hours later. Another arrest followed shortly after, but she was once again released.

Dixon fears that the woman will come back to attempt the same crime — and while the loss of a $12 million vessel is devastating, he fears that the consequences could be even worse than just theft.

“She’s got the wherewithal to steal a crab boat — she could have sneaked in at night and done it, because we’re not that secure here,” he said. “I’m concerned she’d use it to ram the Ballard Locks and drain Lake Washington.”

With the 400-ton ship in her hands as a weapon, he has no doubt she could cause major damage to property, people, and the environment.

In a letter to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, Dixon compared the crime to the theft of the Horizon plane at Sea-Tac Airport last year, or the Victoria Clipper theft in 2013.

“What we’re dealing with here is a major felony crime utilizing heavy machinery as part of the tactic,” he said.

It’s not the only crime that has occurred in the area — Dixon said a homeless person along the railroad tracks near the shipyard recently set the tents along the tracks on fire. Dixon said he identified the alleged arsonist to police, but the person was never arrested.

“The City of Seattle’s policies are just to ignore that,” he said of the crimes.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.


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