Bruce BulsBruce Buls
With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).

Blog Activity

Buls Eye

Seattle’s ‘Raging Grannies’ protest Arctic drilling

Grannies protest Shell's Arctic drilling plans. We’re not used to seeing offshore drilling rigs here in Puget Sound. Yes, we had the Kulluk in town a few years ago, but that was before the notorious conical rig confounded Edison Chouest’s attempt to tow it from Dutch Harbor to Seattle. You’ll recall that the trip was interrupted by an unscheduled stop on an island beach in the Gulf of Alaska. Now we have the Polar Pioneer, which is even larger and considerably...

A bad day on the water

After losing power while crossing Puget Sound last summer, the Tacoma, one of Washington State Ferries' largest vessels, is finally back in business. A board of inquiry investigated the incident and has issued its report. Until about noon on July 29, 2014, everything was working normally on the Tacoma, a Jumbo Mark II ferry owned by Washington State Ferries and carrying passengers and vehicles between Seattle and Bainbridge Island. At 11:59 a.m., the #4 propulsion alternator...

Harley Marine 'shines a light' with new tug

Last week, Harley Marine Services in Seattle held an emotional ceremony welcoming its newest tug, the Michelle Sloan. When Harley Franco built his company’s new world headquarters on Seattle’s Harbor Island, he designed it to be a gathering space for company and industry events. Inside the front door, a large atrium with a salt-water pool and a grand piano provide an elegant entry. An adjacent meeting room opens to the atrium. Floor to ceiling windows look north at downtown Seattle and a...

Foss, Shell lease hubbub hits Seattle

The Port of Seattle’s lease to Foss Maritime for Shell’s Arctic fleet stirs up action and reaction. We’ve been having a huge brouhaha here in Seattle about the port's waterfront lease to Foss Maritime, which, just by historical connection, should be as non-controversial as it gets. But the two-year lease to Foss also extends to Shell Oil, Foss’s client, which wants to stage its Arctic drilling fleet out of Seattle’s Pier 5. The Port of Seattle, which wants to upgrade Pier 5 in the near...

Navigating EPA engine deadlines

Tier 4 emissions territory is upon us. It’s confusing. That’s for sure. You’ve got your different engine categories — depending on cylinder displacement — and you’ve got your escalating tiers that reduce emissions limits. You’ve also got engine emission category deadlines based on overall engine power, for which the regulations are listed in kilowatts, not horsepower, which is also confusing. Engine categories based on displacement were important during...

Vigorized

Taking another look at the Vigor-Kvichak merger. In a blog called “Vigor gets bigger” last week, I wrote about the recently announced merger of Portland’s Vigor Industrial and Seattle’s Kvichak Marine Industries. In the blog, I recounted a chance encounter with Art Parker, Kvichak’s sales manager, at a Portland hotel during a PVA convention. As I was sitting in the lobby with my Vigor-logo laptop bag (a Propeller Club raffle prize), Art walked by (from the bar) and commented on Vigor’s...

Vigor gets bigger

Vigor Industrial just announced the acquisition of Kvichak Marine Industries. A few years ago while at a Passenger Vessel Association convention in Portland, Ore., I was working on my laptop in the hotel lobby. My raffle-prize laptop bag was sitting on the chair next to me, its Vigor logo exposed. Art Parker, Kvichak Marine’s sales manager, walks by and sees me and my Vigor bag. Art’s reaction was something along the lines of “wow, did they get you, too?” Well no, Art, but now they’ve...

“Overloading Leads to Catastrophic Failure of Crane Boom”

Boom, you’re dead. That’s the title of BSEE Safety Alert No. 308, which was issued March 19, 2014. In this case, “catastrophic” refers to the crane, which bent and broke after its dynamic load limit was exceeded; no one was killed or injured. An investigation found that the load chart was incorrect and that the crane operator had used the static load limits as his reference instead of the dynamic load limits, which are lower, as required by the contractor’s standard operating procedures....

Management shake-up at Washington State Ferries

The new head of the country’s largest ferry system is reshaping top management. Last fall, when I wrote November’s cover story about Washington State Ferries, I interviewed Larry Seaquist, a state legislator from Gig Harbor. Seaquist and another legislator, Norma Smith, had written a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee about design problems with the new Olympic-class ferries and had also expressed concern about “the continuing management issues with WSF.” When they wrote that letter, Capt. George...

It’s vigorous in Portland

Swan Island has long been a commercial center in Portland, Ore. During World War II, Kaiser Shipyards established one of its seven wartime shipyards on Swan Island. Now, it’s home to Vigor Industrial.    Last Friday, I got a tour of Vigor Industrial’s shipyard in Portland, Ore. My guides were three women: Hilary Pickerel, executive assistant at Vigor, Jessica Fetterman, a Vigor project engineer, and Athena Maris, owner of The Maris Agency, which provides marketing and...