Byline: Taylor Hill
LOS ANGELES — Port of Los Angeles officials, and even Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have been dealing with negative feedback that stemmed from a project to revamp a 42-year-old harbor tour boat — Angelena II — that is being branded a “luxury yacht” used for “corporate cruises.”
“It’s not a yacht, it’s a boat,” Villaraigosa said, when asked about the project cost by a television reporter for CBS Los Angeles 2 television news. The discrepancy between the 73-foot vessel’s designation and what exactly the boat was used for has raised some controversy about the Port of Los Angeles’ decision to upgrade its harbor tour boat with taxpayer funds.
A new hybrid propulsion system and needed renovations are currently taking place on the aging vessel, which has been dry-docked since last September. The renovations are expected to cost around $750,000, with $200,000 being funded by the port and around $500,000 being obtained in grants.
The boat’s current 350 hp diesel engines must be replaced to meet California’s strict new emission requirements, and the new propulsion system is designed to reduce the vessel’s emissions and fuel consumption by more than 95 percent.
While some have voiced concerns about the idea of using port funds for “yacht maintenance,” the port says the vessel is used to “educate elected officials and federal and state government personnel about the role of ports and the need to provide funding for projects such as dredging, security, transportation infrastructure and terminal expansion.”
“They’ve gone to see why the port is such an important part of this administration’s priorities,” Mayor Villaraigosa told CBS reporter David Goldstein. “We have got to promote trade. That’s why I was in China, Japan and Korea.”
Purchased by the port in 1988, the 73-foot Angelena II is used to highlight the capabilities of the port facilities with customers, constituents, public leaders and foreign dignitaries. Several hundred tours are conducted annually on the vessel, which takes a maximum of 40 guests for 60- to 90-minute tours through Los Angeles Harbor. In 2011, the port hosted more than 4,000 visitors on Angelena II tours.
The grant money for the boat was obtained by the U.S. Department of Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block, to create new jobs in the clean energy workforce. The Port of Los Angeles reported that installation and repair work conducted to install the vessel’s new propulsion system will be handled by city workers — including electricians, carpenters and others.