State close to selling its 2 unused fast ferries

JUNEAU (AP) - The Alaska Marine Highway System is working to finalize the sale of its two mothballed fast ferries to an overseas bidder, officials said.

Mediterranean-based catamaran operator Trasmapi offered about $4.6 million for the Fairweather and Chenega. The company serves the Spanish island of Ibiza.

The offer was less than half the $10 million reserve price set by the state, public radio network CoastAlaska reported Feb. 24. The state paid $68 million for the two ships, which started service in 2004-2005, but which were taken out of service about a decade later due to high operating costs.

John Falvey, general manager of the Alaska ferry system, told the Senate Transportation Committee Feb. 23 that the state was working to close the sale.

The fast ferries were popular because they completed voyages in about half the time as conventional ships, but they consumed a lot of diesel to get there. The 235-foot-long ships, each powered by four diesel engines, burned through about 600 hours of fuel an hour, according to the Alaska Marine Highway System website. That’s more than double the consumption rate of the Matanuska, which can carry more than twice as many passengers and vehicles.

The marine highway system also cited poor performance in rough seas in its decision to park the fast ferries, which are tied up at Ward Cove in Ketchikan.

The Spanish company also offered about $411,000 for a pair of spare diesel engines, which cost the state about $3 million new.

“The two swing engines which are in our warehouse and hermetically sealed containers, unused, they were also part of the sale,” Falvey said.

Trasmapi outbid Pacific Power Group, a Portland-based company, for the engines. Pacific Power had offered about half as much.


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