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November 20, 2008

Golden Gate District to buy two mothballed WSF ferries

A committee of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District has approved the purchase of two mothballed 10-year old high speed ferries that Washington State Ferries once tried to sell on eBay.

The two are the 350-passenger catamarans Chinook and Snohomish

The plan is to purchase the pair for a total of $4 million, then spend another $19.1 million on refurbishing them.

Since receiving confirmation from WSF that the conditional offer of $2 million per vessel was accepted, Golden Gate District staff and consultants have inspected them to confirm that the hulls are in excellent condition and have not experienced any unusual wastage of the hull plating or other major structural components. They have also reviewed regulations to ensure the passenger capacities of each vessel can be increased to a minimum of 450 passengers and determined that there is sufficient space to install the necessary seating. They have also prepared a detailed estimate that identifies each improvement necessary to prepare the vessels for service.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) requires that both vessels be repowered with Tier 2 engines, but consistent with Golden Gate Board policy, they will actually get Tier 2-20 engines, which exceed current CARB requirements.

Other machinery to be replaced includes reduction gears; main shafting; bearings; engine controls and monitoring panels; electrical generator sets; and other miscellaneous pumps and controllers.

The four water jets will be completely refurbished to like-new condition.

Certain above-hull structures will be modified to accommodate additional inside seating capacity and new embarkation doors for passenger access at the upper deck.

Each vessel will be outfitted with new accessible restrooms; snack bar; new seating and tables; bicycle racks; new deck covering (carpet and tile).

The pilot house will be outfitted with new updated navigation equipment.

The vessels will be completely repainted.

The necessary provisions will be made to increase passenger capacity to a minimum of 450 (this will require USCG certification).

The planned timeline will see purchase of the pair completed by the end of this year. Early next year, one of the two will be placed in service, without refurbishment, to fill in for the Golden Gate ferry Del Norte, during a scheduled repowering. Meantime drawings and specs for refurbishment of the two former WSF vessels would be completed.

The plan is to award a refurbishment contract in May 2009 and start the first refurbishment by mid-year. By late 2009 the first refurbished vessel would be redelivered to the Golden Gate District and the second would start its makeover, which would be completed mid-2010.

The two Washington State Ferries are being purchased in lieu of proceeding with a plan to build one new high speed ferry. Nichols Bros. was the sole bidder on that vessel, with an offer of $18.6 million, against a Golden Gate engineer's estimate of $12 million. Since learning of the Golden Gate decision to opt for refurbishing the two mothballed WSF cats, Nichols Bros. has announced a temporary reduction of 30 in the size of its workforce.


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