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Susitna Ferry Back on the Water


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The Susitna Ferry left the Foss shipyard and powered its way to open water in Puget Sound outside Seattle last Thursday with four newly-repaired engines. The vessel successfully performed sea trials June 23, with representatives of the Philippine Red Cross and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough aboard. All engines passed inspection.

Transfer of Title

Borough and Philippine Red Cross officials are expected to conclude signing the closing documents for the sale of the ferry on Thursday. The Philippine Red Cross is paying $1.75 million for the vessel. The disaster relief agency has already paid $250,000 for the purchase of the ship, and an additional $60,000 for operations costs.

Mat-Su Borough Assembly Member Dan Mayfield was aboard the vessel during sea trials. “It’s a really innovative ship,” he said. “The vessel was tailor-made for the mission the Philippine Red Cross is going to make. It has all the amenities that they need to do disaster relief. It will allow them to evacuate people, to hospitalize them, and to transport materials and equipment into disaster relief areas. It’s just perfect for the mission,” said Mayfield who has been closely monitoring the ship repair and insurance process. Mayfield, a former claims adjuster and claims leader, has 33 years of experience in marine, home, and auto insurance.

Repairs & Insurance

Before the sale could proceed, the ship engines had to be repaired due to water damage for some $3 million. The Borough held insurance on the ferry with Lloyd’s of London when extensive rainfall collected in the engines’ stacks in January 2015 at Ward Cove, outside Ketchikan. The repair money was borrowed from fees and leases collected in the Borough’s Land Management Fund with the stipulation of returning the funds after the insurance money is received. “I’m optimistic about the insurance settlement,” Mayfield said. “I expect the vast majority.”

Borough Manager John Moosey also attended the sea trials. “I’m very pleased with how Pacific Power rebuilt the engines, very professional work,” Moosey said. “Transferring this ship to the Philippine Red Cross will put the ship to the noble work of saving lives. It’s time to give it a new life, and also release our taxpayers from the burden of its upkeep.”

Philippine Red Cross Needs Ferry’s Operating Modes

Originally a landing craft prototype for the U.S. Navy, the Susitna is capable of operating as both a cargo-loaded barge that can haul itself onto shore as well as a twin-hulled vessel that cuts through choppy seas with greater ease for the passengers. The ship changes modes by lowering or raising its barge deck, changing its draft from four feet to 14 feet.  

In an earlier press release, Richard Gordon, Chairman and CEO of the Philippine Red Cross said the Susitna will serve as a mobile clinic and hospital ship, serving some of the isolated 7,107 Philippine islands during the all too frequent disasters.

 The U.S. Navy funded most of the $80 million vessel. Prototypes normally get routed to the scrap heap, but the Susitna ferry instead landed in Borough ownership. A ferry terminal was built in the Mat-Su side. But the project momentum was never there to build ferry landings that connected Mat-Su to Anchorage.   

Also on board during sea trials was James Wilson, the Borough auditor, who co-managed the sale of the ferry and managed its repair with staff support from Mary Miller and Rachael Richardson. The Philippines Red Cross had aboard Jubemer Wong, their ship engineer with the Philippine Maritime Academy and the ship captain. The Philippine Red Cross may tow the vessel to the Philippines to preserve the life of the engines.

During the one-day sea trial, the ship traveled through the Central Basin near Puget Sound to Admiralty Inlet and back to the Foss Shipyard near Seattle. The ferry remains at the shipyard near Seattle until the Philippine Red Cross takes possession.

Photos and video by James Wilson and Dan Mayfield.

For more information call Borough Manager John Moosey at 861-8689 and Assembly Member Dan Mayfield at 602-8490 or Patty Sullivan, Public Affairs Director, psullivan@matsugov.us

For more specifics on the sale, read the 2015 press release here. http://www.matsugov.us/news/susitna-sale-to-philippine-red-cross-okayed

www.matsugov.us/news/susitna-ferry-back-on-the-water

 

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