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Susitna attracts just one bid

Written by Nick Blenkey

susitna offloading rock haulerAPRIL 1, 2013 — The $80 million multipurpose ferry Susitna attracted just one bid — for $751,000 — when the Matanuska-Susitna Borough opened bids for the vessel Friday, reports the Alaska Daily News.

Built with the help of Defense budget earmarks put in by then U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, the vessel has a catamaran mode for high speeds; a small-water-area-twin-hull (SWATH) mode for stability in high sea states; and a shallow-draft landing-craft mode that provides substantial buoyancy for maneuvering in shallow water. It is designed with a center “barge” that can be hydraulically raised and lowered, while the buoyancy of its catamaran hulls can be adjusted while under way.

Since completion in 2011, though, it has functioned only in white elephant mode. With no suitable docks and no workable route, it has been costing Mat-Su Borough an average $75,000 a month for insurance, maintenance, fuel, docking fees and other expenses,

The Mat-Su Borough has been trying to either sell it, or just give it away to a government agency meeting the relevant federal requirements.

The Alaska Daily News article says that one agency approached to take the vessel, the Alaska Marine Highway System has concluded the Susitna would be expensive to run and that existing docks would need to be reconfigured. A new draft study said the vessel can hold 134 passengers but only 20 vehicles, and burns 375 gallons of fuel an hour. A state ferry with a similar capacity, the Lituya, burns 55 gallons an hour. The state ferry system doesn’t want the Susitna, the staff report said.

The Alaska Daily News reports that the $751,000 offer opened Friday came from Workships Contractors BV, based in The Netherlands. It wants to use the vessel to support offshore wind farms, according to the borough.

The newspaper cites Marc Van Dongen, the borough’s port director, as saying the best option now will likely be to give the boat to another government agency. It reports that at least two governments are still being considered by the Federal Transit Administration.

Los Angeles County wants to use the Susitna for public ferry service to Catalina Island, and also as an emergency response vessel that could respond to oil spills, conduct search and rescue operations, transport equipment, and serve as a sea-based mobile command.

The U.S. Virgin Islands is interested in using the vessel for inter-island transportation. The ferry that used to run between St. Thomas and St. Croix was severely damaged in a 2011 accident.

Read the Alaska Daily News report HERE

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