State working to close sale of its fast ferries

A fery in the evening
Alaska Marine Highway System’s fast ferry Fairweather. (Skip Gray/KTOO)

The Alaska Marine Highway System is working to finalize the sale of its fast ferries to an overseas bidder.

Trasmapi, a Mediterranean-based catamaran operator, offered about $4.6 million for the Fairweather and Chenega ferries. But that was less than half the $10 million reserve price set by the state.

When bids were opened on Jan. 13, a state procurement officer noted that a lower price could still be negotiated.

We do have a responsive bidder and we are continuing — as we speak today — to work through the process to close the sale, ” John Falvey, the state-run ferry system’s general manager, told the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday.

Trasmapi runs ferries between the Spanish mainland and the island of Ibiza. The Spanish company had also offered about $411,000 for a pair of diesel engines, which cost 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.

The state of Alaska commissioned the fast ferries in the mid-2000s. And they were popular, completing a voyage in about half the time as a conventional ship. But they were taken out of service in 2015 and 2019.

At the time, the marine highway cited rising fuel costs and poor performance in rough seas. It’s not clear how much the state is now asking for them. The two 235-foot catamarans cost $68 million new.

Jacob Resneck is CoastAlaska's regional news director in Juneau.

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