Construction begins on next-generation ferry

Date:  Friday, March 23, 2012

Contact:Marta Coursey, WSF director of communications, 206-515-3918
Steve Hirsh, Vigor director of communications, 206-696-4645

SEATTLE – The first arc welds on the keel of Washington’s new 144-car ferry will be made later this month by the leaders of the state Legislature transportation committees, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island and Rep. Judy Clibborn of Mercer Island.

The two legislators will join Washington State Ferries officials and ship workers at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, March 29, to commemorate the moment when the vessel’s keel is laid in place at Vigor Industrial’s Harbor Island shipyard in Seattle.

Keel laying, the maritime equivalent of placing a cornerstone, is a traditional milestone in ship building. Haugen and Clibborn will mark the formal start of construction for a new class of ferries designed to carry up to 144 cars and 1,500 passengers across the waters of Puget Sound.

“This construction is critical to replacing our aging fleet. The new ferry will allow us to retire one of the 1950s-era Evergreen State Class vessels,” said David Moseley, assistant transportation secretary, Ferries Division. “We have a solid partnership with Vigor after successful completion of the Kwa-di Tabil Class ferries, and I look forward to the first 144-car ferry joining the state’s fleet and serving our customers.”

Work on this first vessel will produce an estimated 200 family-wage jobs at US Fab, plus 350 additional jobs at subcontractors and other shipyards in the region.

WSF estimates the new 144-car ferry will start service in early 2014. Cost of construction is $115 million, and the total cost of the vessel is $147 million, which includes owner-furnished equipment, construction management and contingencies.

The design of the ferry is based on the 130-car Issaquah class, which has proven to be the most versatile vessel in the state fleet. The new 144-car ferry will be more comfortable for passengers with added capacity, improved safety systems and better access for customers with disabilities.

“Our workers and hundreds of others around the state are proud to be building this vessel for the people of Washington who ride and rely on ferries,” said Chris Morgan, vice president of US Fab.

WSF has a contract with US Fab for design and construction of up to four 144-car ferries contingent on available funding. The Legislature funded a second 144-car ferry this session.

Washington State Ferries operates the largest ferry fleet in the United States. Twenty-three ferries carry more than 22 million passengers across Puget Sound and its inland waterways each year.