Mail-order ferry boats?

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OLYMPIA – Responding to the state’s urgent need for replacement boats for its over-aged ferry fleet, Rep. Larry Seaquist says the state can dramatically stretch the ferry system’s dollar by accepting an offer by Tacoma’s J.M. Martinac shipbuilding company. Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, is asking the Legislature to buy the Martinac “catalog” ferry. Martinac is listing the 130-car ferry, designed for all routes and all terminals in Washington’s large ferry system, on the federal catalog normally used to buy staplers, paper and desks.

Listed at $65M – or $500,000 per car slot – the 130-car, 1,200 passenger ferry would cost half the amount now budgeted for a long-awaited 144-car boat. Seaquist points out that the Martinac catalog boat costs even less than new, specialized boats half that size specially built for the Keystone-Port Townsend run.

Seaquist’s proposal would have the state scrap their current contracts and start ordering from a catalog.

“We need the ferry system to do more with less. This new construction option will get us more car space faster for fewer dollars,” said Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor. “Building better boats for less will help us keep service levels up.”

This new direction in ferry acquisition, design-build ferries, has further advantages of:

· An all-routes, all terminals design, meaning it would safely operate in the Keystone Harbor

· Designed to higher standards than our current fleet and meets Coast Guard standards to operate on the international route

· Latest propulsion and navigation technology, unlike the 144-car ferry which is designed around older engines and older propeller schemes

· Lower fuel costs, both by propulsion design and better cycle time

· An option of an unmanned engine room with a large reduction in crew costs

· Purchase options include buy the boat on a 20-year lease with zero up-front costs, or a low or no down payment

Seaquist plans to offer the amendment on the House floor Friday when they consider the transportation budget.

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