My Word | Harbor district should reconsider Crowley deal

By Joe James, Chairman of the Yurok Tribe

This article originally appeared on the

On Thursday, July 26th, the Eureka Times-Standard reported allegations of sex trafficking by employees of Crowley Marine Services, the parent company of the prospective leaseholder of Humboldt’s wind terminal, Crowley Wind Services. While the troubling history of Crowley’s workplace culture has been known for some time, the publicly available evidence suggests that high-level executives within Crowley were aware and complacent in allowing misconduct to thrive. These allegations, which picture a rotten company culture, are concerning and worthy of further investigation given the historical and present-day crisis of sex trafficking and Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) in California and the United States. They also give necessary reasons to consider reopening negotiations regarding port development.

California has the fifth largest MMIP caseload, and Northern California is the epicenter for these cases. A 120-year survey of California MMIP cases found that one in five of the state’s cases are from Humboldt County. As we work to address the MMIP crisis, we cannot be passive bystanders in watching the wrong choices be made in the harbor district development process. We are concerned about the process for selecting this developer and its lack of transparency for issues surrounding tribal safety and protection, women’s rights, and sexual assault, as well as the choice to use a company with such a troublesome track record on relevant issues.

As an elected body, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District’s responsibility lies with the people, community, and environment it represents. Native American Tribes are a vital constituent in this community, and the safety of our women, girls, and people is paramount. While offshore wind port development could benefit the community through jobs, an influx of money, and by fighting climate change, these potential benefits must not come at the expense of our people.

These allegations are particularly disturbing, given that Crowley has had six months to engage with us on the critical issue and has yet to make any fundamental public or private commitments towards addressing this company-wide problem. On a national scale, the unwillingness of the company to accept any responsibility for its alleged actions also suggests that Crowley is incapable of making much-needed institutional change.

We have the chance to do things right. We are still at the beginning of offshore wind development in our region. We also understand that the harbor district is invested in the success of this port development project. Success, however, requires a screening and selection process which guarantees MMIP prevention, sex trafficking protection, and the safety of all vulnerable people in this region.

This screening process needs to be open, transparent and should entail a robust evaluation of the human rights record of each applicant. It is also critical that this process is guided in partnership with tribal nations and local communities. We do not believe Crowley Wind Services would meet this more rigorous human rights evaluation. If this is the case, the harbor district should reconsider its exclusive right to negotiate with the company and invite a new competitive bid process guided by all stakeholders.

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