by John Snyder, Senior Editor
March 27, 2004 marked an historic event for the U.S. fast ferry industry and the U.S. shipbuilding industry. It was at noon on that day that the M/V Fairweather sailed into Auke Bay, arriving in Juneau, Alaska, to a cheering crowd. The 73-meter-long (235-foot) Fast Vehicle Ferry (FVF) Fairweather had just completed its 7,559-mile delivery trip from Bridgeport, Conn. After securing the lines, the Fairweather was then opened up to the public for an open house, which drew more than 1,500 guests.
Local, national and international interest in the new vessel had been high since the first plate was cut at Derecktor Shipyards, Bridgeport, Conn., in July 2002. Built for the Alaska Marine Highway Transportation System (AMHS), the Fairwweather is the first high-speed vehicle and passenger ferry to be built in the U.S. to exacting international standards. It was classed by Det Norske Veritas as DNV Maltese Cross 1A1 HSLC, R3 and with full USCG compliance to SOLAS/HSC Code Cat. B.
For the AMHS ferry project, Derecktor Shipyards teamed up with naval architect Nigel Gee and Associates (NGA) Ltd, Southampton, England, and used one of NGAs original designs, developed expressly for the Alaska project. The Fairweather and its sister, the Chenega, are designed to be safe, high-speed Roll-On/Roll-Off (RO/RO) passenger ferries that minimize costs and can interface with existing AMHS docks and pier side facilities.
The Fairweather began its delivery voyage to Alaska on March 3. Traveling at an average speed of 21 knots, the Fairweather covered a total of 7,559 miles in 24 days. The 73-meter high-speed vehicle and passenger ferry made 56 stops during her 24-day delivery voyage trip, including Fort Lauderdale, the Panama Canal, Acapulco, Mexico, San Diego, and Seattle and Ketchikan, Alaska. On board was a 10-person delivery crew as well as representatives from AMHS, Derecktor Shipyards, and MTU and Kamewa PMC-Controls. The crew was trained to the High Speed Craft Code (HSC) requirements by Derecktor Shipyards. Derecktor Shipyards, Bridgeport is one of only four U.S. Coast Guard-approved facilities and the only shipyard to offer High Speed Craft training programs in the United States.
In a small ceremony onboard, Alaskas Governor Murkowski accepted the Fairweather and signed the bill of sale on April 3rd for an on time delivery. Gavin Higgins, Derecktor Shipyards COO presented him with the framed U.S. ensign that flew on the Fairweather during its sea trials and delivery.
Following extensive crew training as required by the High Speed Craft code, the Fairweather entered service on June 8, offering round-trip transportation between Haines, Skagway, Sitka and Juneau. The FVF made its first run between Juneau and Haines in just over two hoursabout half the time of previous AMHS vessels.
Propulsion for the ferry is supplied by four MTU 16V595 diesel engines, each rated at 3,600 kW at 1,750 rev/min, that drive four Kamewa 90SII waterjets.
The FVF has a capacity of 250 passengers and up to 35 Alaskan cars (or the equivalent of about 55 Subaru station wagons the other Alaskan car) and can travel at 36 knots using only 85% of its available power. The catamaran-hulled vessel is designed to operate comfortable in up to sea state 6.
Its sister ship, the Chenega, is currently under construction at Derecktor Shipyards and is scheduled for a winter 2004 delivery.