Work still underway to dispose of Susitna Ferry
May 28, 2013
On March 29th, a sealed bid was opened from a Dutch marine company for $751,000 to buy the Susitna Ferry from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Also still on the table for consideration, is the transfer of the vessel for free to an eligible government entity in the U.S. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough also remains open to unsolicited bids to buy the one-of-a-kind ship.
“We’re disappointed with the results,” said Borough Manager John Moosey in late March regarding the bids. “But this shows the market demand. We’ll continue to work with eligible agencies and the FTA (Federal Transit Administration) to come to a reasonable conclusion to this story.”
The agile ship has three performance modes: it acts as a barge low in the water, acts as a landing craft and pulls up to shore in four feet of water to offload heavy equipment onto the beach; acts as a twin-hulled vessel and lets the sea pass it by, making rough rides for passengers more comfortable. The vessel also can lift ice and snap it over its twin bows.
The sole bidder: Workships Contractors BV is based in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The company is a marine asset manager with a global presence and 25 years in managing: drilling, service platforms, vessels, crewing, procurement, and logistics. A broker for the company indicated that if the Susitna were purchased it would serve as a crew vessel for offshore wind energy companies.
Another ship disposal option for the Borough is giving the ship to another government in the U.S. In February and March, the Borough received letters of interest from governments that want to acquire the ferry. The entities would have to be eligible to receive the ship under criteria of the Federal Transit Administration. The Borough’s financial obligation to the FTA for grants it received for the ship furnishings, design, and studies depends on how the Borough disposes of the ship: whether it’s to a private buyer or to a government in the U.S. Learning option outcomes from the FTA will be Borough Manager Moosey’s next step.
Among the letters received were requests for the ship from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Los Angeles County.
In a letter from the Senate President of the Legislature for the U.S. Virgin Islands: “We are in dire need of reliable inter-island travel at this time and our current situation makes this need particularly acute. The ferry providing service between St. Thomas and St. Croix was severely damaged in an accident at sea in July of 2011. Since that time, we have not had regular service between these islands despite the fact this it is desperately needed,” Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone wrote.
Los Angeles County, CEO William T Fujioka wrote:
“We envision using the high speed, high-tech, state-of-the-art steel welded vessel as a public access ferry service providing County residents with transportation and cargo services to and from the mainland to Catalina Island.” Emergency response would be a secondary use of the vessel. L.A. County indicated the Susitna would also be a sea-based mobile command center.
In Sept. 2012 the Borough hired multiple international ship brokers to market the ship worldwide. In January, the Borough began soliciting sealed bids, a process that ended today.
The ship has drawn interest of all kinds from the Netherlands to Tanzania to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands to Hong Kong. Locally, the Borough has tried to garner interest from the Alaska oil & gas industry, the offshore vessel industry, international spill response companies, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Alaska Marine Highway System, arctic development interests, national laboratories, colleges, and the U.S. Navy, among others. National press reports and a mass email to members of a U.S. ship owners association also helped draw interest from governments in the U.S.
Since its construction helped launch the ship-building industry in Ketchikan, the Susitna has been berthed outside Ketchikan in the Ward Cove area and never put into commission. It was intended to connect the two miles of water between the Mat-Su Borough—the fastest growing area in Alaska, and Anchorage—Alaska’s financial center. However, ferry landings for the route were never built, despite an exhaustive Borough effort. Confronted with monthly costs of $75,000 & upwards, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly agreed to dispose of the vessel to shield taxpayers.
The 200-foot ship was built as a military prototype for the U.S. Navy’s next generation of landing craft. The Navy paid for most of its construction costs. The construction costs of the Susitna Ferry was approximately $78 million.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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