Washington State 144-car ferry newbuilds make progress

MARCH 12, 2013 — Washington State Governor Jay Inslee officially kicked off the construction of M/V Samish, the state's second 144-car ferry, by making the first weld on the vessel at Vigor Industrial's Seattle shipyard Friday.

Joined by state transportation officials, community leaders, and senior Vigor executives, the Governor praised the hard work of the state's maritime industrial and ferry workers before getting down to work.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee does a little shipbuilding

"This maritime industry is embedded in the legacy of Washington" said Governor Inslee, who pledged to fight for that industry and to keep Washington's much needed new ferries built in Washington.

The governor said he chose to weld the initials of his grandson, Brody Robert Inslee, into the keel of M/V Samish because "these boats will last at least 60 years and I like to think of him taking his kids or grandkids on this boat."

"The Washington State Ferry System and the state's maritime industry are crucial to the vibrancy of our state." said Vigor CEO Frank Foti, who explained that building ferries in Washington not only results in great boats, but helps the state maintain a highly productive, competitive maritime industry.

Acting as Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Foti welcomed speakers including: Chris Morgan, Vice President of US Fab; Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, who explained that her community would be receiving one of these ferries, and that new vessels are needed to ensure reliable service; David Moseley, Washington State Department of Transportation's Assistant Secretary, who is directly responsible for running the state's ferry system; and Washington's Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond, who chose to spend her last day before retirement celebrating the new ferry.

Chris Morgan thanked state officials and the Vigor workforce, and outlined the economic and social implications that building ferries has for workers: "Industrial jobs are one of the best ways to strengthen our economy and our communities. More than 200 people will work on this ferry here at Vigor. Hundreds more skilled craftspeople will build critical components of the boat at our subcontractors around the region. These jobs allow each of our workers to support families, invest in education, and patronize local businesses which support thousands more jobs across the region."

As he concluded the event, Mr, Foti drew attention to the floating dry dock moored outside the assembly hall where the keel laying took place. In the dry dock was the first 144-car ferry, the Tokitae, also under construction at Vigor.

Earlier in the week US Fab, the Vigor company building the ferries, hit a major project milestone on the Tokitae, when the company successfully transferred the 270 ft x 80 ft x 45 ft, 1,110 ton superstructure onto the hull while both structures were in floating dry docks. The move was no small feat.

Ferry-on-BargeThe superstructure was fabricated at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on Whidbey Island and was barged to Vigor in Seattle on March 2.

On Saturday, March 2nd, 2013 Nichols Brothers loaded the superstructure onto a Kelly-Ryan Services, Inc. barge to be delivered to US Fab in Seattle for final assembly.

Nichols had begun construction on the superstructure in March of 2012 and Nichols hired an additional 100 tradesmen to carry out the scope of work for the new ferry and on two tractor tugs Nichols also had contracted to build.

Tokitae superstructure leaves Nichols Bros on Kelly-Ryan Services barge

To move the superstructure approximately 600 ft to the barge, Nichols used a complex hydraulic transfer system designed by Engineered Heavy Services of Everett, WA.

The superstructure began the journey from inside the Nichols yard, on Friday, March 1st at 12:30 P.M. At 5:30 P.M. it had moved 300 feet and sat on I-beam tracks overnight before being transferred to the barge. On Saturday, movement continued at 10:00 A.M. and was completed by 5:00 P.M. Sunday morning at approximately 5:30 A.M. the superstructure arrived at US Fab.

Nichols has already begun fabrication on sections of the second 144-Car Ferry and will immediately begin assembling the final structure. The second structure is to be delivered in January 2014 to US Fab.

With the arrival of the superstructure at US Fab, the next step was to place the massive superstructure — too heavy to lift by crane — on top of the 362 ft x 83 ft x 24 ft hull that US Fab had recently finished fabricating.

The transfer was completed on the waters of Puget Sound.

The team put the superstructure, still on the barge, in one of Vigor's three floating dry docks in Seattle and put the hull in another. After lining the dry docks up end-to-end, the team adjusted the buoyancy of each dry dock to align the top of the hull with the bottom of the superstructure. Working with heavy lifting contractor Omega Morgan, the team laid down 600 feet of track to bridge the distance between the hull and the superstructure. Working over five hours, and constantly adjusting the weight distributions of each drydock, the team successfully made the transit and placed the superstructure on the hull.

"This operation was a major engineering evolution," Mr. Morgan said. "It was a very unique situation for us. There was very little room for error and our people pulled it off safely thanks to the excellent work from all levels of the organization."

"These vessels pose interesting engineering challenges because we are constructing major portions of the ship in different locations," commented Mr. Morgan.

Major subcontractors include Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on Whidbey Island, Jesse Engineering of Tacoma, Greer Tanks of Lakewood, ELTEC and Performance Contracting in Seattle.

"From the start this has been an exciting project." Mr. Morgan said. "Our customers at Washington State Ferries and our partners across the region have formed a lean, responsive team."

Both ferry boats are on currently on schedule and on budget. The M/V Tokitae is scheduled to be delivered in early 2014. The M/V Samish is scheduled to be delivered in early 2015.

Tokitae superstructure in floating dry dock

Tokitae Superstructure