Fuel tanker in Samish Bay with Chuckanut Range behind
Samish Bay is used as a fuel ship parking area. The bay is fairly protected from long fetch wind driven ways. Further protection can be gained by slightly adjusting position within the bay during high wind events. The bay provides good access to the northwest Washington oil refineries at March Point and Cherry Point. The water is too deep and too open nearer to Cherry Point. The waters around March Point have limited space with narrow shipping lanes and very shallow water to the east in Padilla Bay. Hence, Samish Bay and the adjoining bay to the north, Bellingham Bay, has appropriate depth and proximity to be a good anchorage for oil and fuel ships.
A variety of oil and fuel ships and barges use the space when waiting to either load or off load their products. The big tanker ships will pull into the bay and wait for off loading when dock space at the refineries is taken or if some time is needed at the refinery for having the right blend of crude oils in their mixing tanks.
Oil Tanker on Samish Bay
North tip of Samish Island on the left and Lummi Island in the distance
Waiting ship on Samish Bay
BC Coast Range in the far distance
The ships are fully crewed while they wait and there are a number of attendant tugs that serve the ships as well as the barges that anchor in the bay. Non fuel bulk ships and even on occasion container ships use the bay on occasion, but are more typically anchored to the north within the adjoining Bellingham Bay.
The fuel and oil ships and barges and their crews are regulated and monitored by a combination of international ship safety conventions, the Coast Guard, the State of Washington Department of Ecology and the Washington State Board of Pilotage Commissioners. The additional regulations in place by Washington State is an added expense that has been deemed well worth the cost by the Washington Legislature as the cost of a mishap would be very dramatic for seafood industries, recreational users and property owners in the Salish Sea.