How recent records threaten to sink the shipping industry

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SAN DIEGO – Soaring gasoline prices in San Diego County and much of the United States are having far-reaching implications, including for local businesses operating on the water.

From whale watching to boat rental companies, owners say it’s getting more expensive to do business.

Seaforth Boat Rentals owner Andy Kurtz says record petrol prices are impacting his business and some of those extra costs should be passed on to consumers. (Alex Aguirre, KSWB)

For Andy Kurtz, owner of Seaforth Boat Rentals, that extra cost comes from gassing the company’s boats, which typically burn up to 80 gallons per hour. He called the recent increases “frightening” and noted that they were already cutting into profits.

“Our products are price sensitive,” Kurtz said. “I can’t just add $18 an hour to a hire for it to end up taking it out of the bottom line”

According to local boat operators, it typically costs $4 a gallon to run a boat like those used by Seaforth. This cost has recently jumped to over $6 per gallon.

At the Mission Bay fuel dock, the price of unleaded was even higher, at over $8 a gallon.

Kurtz said the war in Ukraine after last month’s invasion by Russian forces has not improved the situation. He hopes local leaders can do more to lessen the impact of rising prices felt by consumers.

Asked about a tax refund proposal announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom in his state of the state address on Tuesday, Kurtz said he doesn’t think it would help keep his boats afloat.

“I would like to see them suspend the fuel tax,” he said. We pay 50 cents more per gallon, the second highest rate in the country. Rather than delaying this increase, it should be temporarily halted.

California’s 51-cent-per-gallon gasoline excise tax — which pays for transportation costs such as road maintenance and repair — is the highest of any US state. Recently, there have been calls across the state to temporarily suspend the tax, including in a letter co-authored this week by San Diego County Supervisors Joel Anderson and Jim Desmond.

“It’s not a partisan issue,” Desmond told FOX 5 on Monday. “It hits everyone left and right, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on.”

For now at least, Kurtz said he expects more than $100,000 in cost increases this year. Up to 40% of that can be passed on to customers, he said.

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