Washington State Ferries plan calls for 16 new vessels

Written by Nick Blenkey
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JANUARY 3, 2019 — More than half of Washington State Ferries’ 23-vessel fleet is scheduled to be retired by 2040. The ferry system needs 16 new vessels in the next 20 years, including 13 ferries to replace vessels due for retirement and three additional vessels to fill in when other ferries are out for maintenance and to respond to growth.

These are among the recommendations of a 2040 Long Range Plan that WSF submitted to the Washington State Legislature today, Jan. 3.

“This Long Range Plan provides a blueprint to guide WSF’s investments and meet our customers’ service expectations,” Assistant Secretary Amy Scarton said. “We need to invest immediately in building new ferries, developing our workforce and upgrading technology and terminals to provide reliable, sustainable and resilient ferry service through 2040 and beyond.”

In addition to recommending that the state build new ferries immediately, the plan includes investments in terminal improvements to support more reliable service, a focus on new technology and strategies to improve the customer experience and manage growth.

A greener future

For the first time, the WSF Long Range Plan includes recommendations for greening the ferry fleet and preparing for climate change and seismic events. Based on guidance from Gov. Jay Inslee, the plan calls for electrifying the ferry fleet to reduce fuel use, emissions, noise and maintenance costs.

Next steps

The Long Range Plan will help guide future funding decisions. WSF will use the plan to guide projects and adapt to changing conditions through 2040.

Five new Olymplc Class ferries

The plan recommends extending the state’s existing open contract for the Olympic Class of vessels to construct five more vessels as soon as possible to stabilize the system. WSF could use these new vessels immediately, relieving in-service boats for planned maintenance and preservation, and replacing recent (past due) or fast approaching vessel retirements.

Beyond the expediency of using an existing open contract to build new Olympic Class vessels, there are other reasons why this type and size of vessel is the most appropriate to begin strengthening the fleet.

The Olympic Class vessel is an appropriate size for navigability and capacity to serve nearly any route in the system. With the exception of Keystone Harbor, the location of the Coupeville terminal on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route, Olympic Class vessels can navigate and tie up at any of WSF’s facilities.

Additionally, the Olympic Class vessel brings an opportunity for standardization of the fleet on a common hull design, leading to cost efficiencies in training and spare parts, and interchangeability of labor. The top decks of the vessel can be optimized and customized to the route served, providing flexibility in passenger cabin space and vehicle carrying capacity.

With some modifications, the existing Olympic Class design can be reworked for hybrid propulsion and also certified as an international vessel with opportunities to serve the Sidney, B.C., route as a service or relief vessel.

Retire Issaqhah Class early — at 50 years old

The plan recommends examining WSF’s 60-year life expectancy for vessels in the fleet that have not had the maintenance and preservation time required to meet this high life-expectancy goal.

Within the first 10 to 15 years of the Plan, service reliability risk will be highest, in part because of the large number of retiring vessels and because of the condition of the Issaquah Class vessels, among the oldest vessels in the fleet. The Issaquah Class vessels have not had enough out-of-service time or funding to complete the preservation requirements of the Lifecycle Cost Model. As a result, at their current age of about 40 years—still a decade above industry standard for vessel lifespan of about 30 years—the Issaquah Class vessels are experiencing reliability issues and steel degradation that will shorten their attainable service life.

The plan recommends retiring the Issaquah Class early, at approximately 50 years of age: The planned timing of Issaquah Class replacement vessel delivery would sync up well with planned improvements on the routes they serve, providing unique opportunities for concurrent and integrate for concurrent and integrated vessel and terminal design to maximize operating efficiencies.

Download the plan HERE


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