August 16, 2007
WSF Steel Electric woes continue
Repairs to one of Washington State Ferries' 80 year old Steel Electric Class ferries are taking longer than anticipated.
As we reported earlier, the Ilahee has been sidelined since discovery on Sunday, July 29, of a slow leak in the stern tube of the vessel.
Today, The Olympian reports that the 20-inch crack in the cast-iron stern tube of the Illahee can't be closed by welding, so ferry officials are working with Todd Shipyards in Seattle to try to make a custom stern tube out of a 17-foot long steel pipe.
If the plan doesn't work out, the future of the 80-year-old Illahee is uncertain.
The stern tube crack was discovered when the vessel was making its first voyage after being drydocked for Coast Guard-mandated work that included removal of concrete along the stern tube that had prevented close inspection of the vessel's riveted steel hull.
The Olympian notes that engineers initially believed the crack may have been caused by stress during drydocking. But a close inspection found more corrosion of the stern tube than anticipated and the crack's cause remains under investigation.
Work on the Illahee is expected to take weeks.
Though Washington's four Steel Electric Class vessels double ended, diesel electric ferries were rebuilt in the 1980's they were originally built for San Francisco and delivered in 1927.
Another of the four vessel's, the Quinault, is also in dry dock.
The remaining pair, the Klickitat and the Nisqually are both being used on the route between Keystone on Whidbey Island and Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. The Steel Electrics are the only boats in the state's fleet capable of using those terminals.
Today's report in The Olympian makes it clear that keeping the aging vessels in service has become particularly challenging. Ferry officials must inspect the Nisqually every four hours. In addition, the Coast Guard will conduct weekly internal structural exams--it usually conducts that type of exam every two years on state ferries.
The Steel Electrics have been the focus of increased scrutiny since the Klickitat was pulled from service in March with a 6-inch crack in the hull.