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Feb 2, 2009

Washington State rolls out new draft plan for ferries

Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division (WSF) has released a revised draft Long-Range Plan. The plan highlights a need for $1.3 billion to $3.3 billion in new funding over the next 22 years to maintain the ferry system.

WSF faces a significant fleet recapitalization requirement over the next 22 years. The fleet is among the oldest of any major ferry operator, with an average vessel age of more than 35 years (with oldest vessel being 62 years old, and the newest being 11 years old). The needs are significant over the next 22 years, as WSF will continue to invest in the ongoing preservation of its aging fleet as well as invest in a significant new vessel construction program to replace retiring vessels.

WSF's problems with its aging fleet became inescapable on November 20, 2007, when four, nearly 80 year old Steel Electric Class ferries had to be dramatically removed from service because of concerns with hull integrity. They were ultimately retired because the cost of repairs was prohibitive.

Since then WSF has been struggling to come up with an affordable solution to its capacity probelms.

The just-released revised draft long range plan defines two very different scenarios for the state ferry system.

Scenario A would make minor improvements to the system, but it would also require $3.3 billion of additional funding over the next 22 years.

Scenario B would cut back some service and pare the system to its bare essentials, reducing the funding need to $1.3 billion.

Scenario A would see the purchase of 11 new vessels to replace retired and retiring vessels.

The bare bones Scenario B would see the purchase of just five new vessels and would also replace a Super Class vessel (144-car capacity) with a small vessel (between 40 and 50 vehicles capacity).

In both scenarios, the Hyak (144-car vessel) would be refurbished, for approximately $20 million, to extend its life until 2032.

Vessel Procurement Plans

SCENARIO A

2010 Island Home No.1 Replace a Steel Electric (Port Townsend)

2011 Island Home No.2 Replace a Steel Electric (Port Townsend)

2011 Hyak reinvestment Invest in the Hyak to extend life 20 years

2012 Island Home No.3 Replace the Rhododendron (go to Point Defiance)

2013 144-car vessel No.1 Replace the Evergreen State

2015 144-car vessel No.2 Restore standby/reserve capacity; Hyak moved to standby

2017 144-car vessel No.3 Replace the Tillikum

2019 144-car vessel No.4 Replace the Klahowya

2021 144-car vessel No.5 Replace the Elwha

2023 144-car vessel No.6 Replace the Kaleetan

2025 144-car vessel No.7 Replace the Yakima

2027 Small Vessel No.1 Replace the Hiyu

SCENARIO B

2010 Island Home No.1 Replace a Steel Electric (Port Townsend)

2011 Hyak reinvestment Invest in the Hyak to extend life 20 years

2021 Small Vessel No.1 Replace the Elwha

2023 Small Vessel No.2 Replace the Hiyu

2025 144-car vessel No.1 Replace the Kaleetan

2027 144-car vessel No.2 Replace the Yakima

The revised draft plan updates a draft document released on Dec. 19, 2008 for public review and comment. WSF accepted comments on the draft through Monday, Jan. 26. During the 38-day comment period, WSF conducted a total of 10 public hearings in ferry-served communities to present the draft plan and to listen to public testimony. More than 1,300 individuals attended the public hearings, and hundreds in attendance testified. In addition, WSF received more than 800 written comments.

To access the revised plan or read the public comments submitted between Dec. 19, 2008 and Jan. 26, 2009, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/planning/ESHB2358.


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