Washington receives one bid for double-ended ferries

Dec 21, 2009 12:00 AM

The three new Washington ferries will be adaptations of Island Home, above, which operates in Massachusetts and was designed by Elliott Bay Design Group of Seattle. (Courtesy Elliott Bay Design Group)
Once again, just one shipyard has bid on a contract to build two double-ended vessels for Washington State Ferries’ Port Townsend/Keystone route.

Todd Pacific Shipyards, of Seattle, bid $114.1 million to build the two ferries, about $4 million over the state’s estimate.

These ferries are in addition to one that is currently being built, which was contracted in December 2008. Todd was also the only bidder on the first of the three ferries. That vessel is now nearing completion and is due to go into service in late summer 2010. The state would like to build a fourth ferry, but funding has not yet been authorized.

These new ferries will replace the four 80-year-old Steel Electric ferries the state had used on the route. Safety concerns forced the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to pull the ferries from this route and lease a vessel from Pierce County, Wash., while a new ferry is being built.

Before putting out the contract for the first ferry, the state had hoped to move ahead with the construction of two new ferries for the route, but the price, $125 million, from the only bidder, Todd Pacific Shipyards, was considerably higher than the state engineer’s estimate of $96 million. So the state settled on one 64-auto ferry for $64.5 million.

To save money, the state is having Todd build the vessel based on an adaptation of the design of an existing ferry designed by the Seattle-based naval architecture firm of Elliott Bay Design Group (EBDG). All three ferries are being built to the EBDG design.

That existing ferry, Island Home, is in service in Massachusetts, transiting between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard. It was built by VT Halter Marine of Pascagoula, Miss., in 2006 for $32 million.

Washington state law does not allow state-owned vessels to be built out of state, thereby limiting the number of yards that could bid on the three Washington ferries.

Island Home is a classically designed ro-ro vessel with a pilothouse, propeller and rudder at each end so the ferry does not have to turn around, saving valuable time and allowing more trips per day.

Propulsion power is via two EMD 12-cylinder 710 G7B engines, one in each end, giving the vessel a service speed of 16 knots.

“The new Island Home design will hold 64 cars, seven more than the Woods Hole Island Home. This is accomplished by adding a 20-foot mid-body to the ferry,” said John Waterhouse, president of EBDG.

Passenger capacity will be reduced from 1,200 on Island Home to between 650 and 750 on the new vessel, saving money in crewing costs.

Other changes include modifying the bow to the standard WSDOT Ferries Division “pickle-fork” design to mesh with the docking facilities at each port. “We are also removing the bow thruster, since it is not often used and will reduce electrical load and improve fuel efficiency,” Waterhouse added.

The sewage system is being revised, the fuel capacity doubled and the passenger areas redesigned to accommodate a bike-holding area.

In February 2008, a group of Ferries Division captains and engineers traveled to Woods Hole to ride Island Home. They reported that the vessel was very maneuverable for its size in rough water similar to what is often encountered on the Port Townsend/Keystone route.

“The Island Home design could travel under conditions that would have caused the Steel Electrics to cancel these voyages,” their report concluded.

The contract called for the vessel now under construction at Todd to be completed by June 2010. For the two recently bid vessels, the time line is 20 months for each vessel. •

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