State sells two fast ferries for just over $5M

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

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration announced the sale of Alaska’s two fast ferries to an international buyer for just over $5 million. The deal closed Wednesday, the Department of Transportation said Thursday.

“This sale is a significant milestone in our long-term vision to reshape the Alaska Marine Highway System,” Transportation Commissioner John MacKinnon said in a statement. “Selling the fast ferries is a move to right-size the fleet and lets AMHS redirect funds used for their storage to operations. This moves us toward our goal of a more sustainable and affordable level of service for Alaskans.”

The Fairweather and Chenega have been tied up in Ketchikan since 2019 and 2015, respectively. They were relatively new additions to the Alaska Marine Highway System’s fleet, purchased about 15 years ago for $68 million.

They were popular with passengers, since they traveled about twice as fast as the rest of the fleet. But they struggled to perform in rough seas and burned more fuel.

The buyer is Trasmapi, which runs a fleet of catamarans between the Spanish mainland and the Mediterranean island Ibiza, known as a top destination for European vacationers.

The Spanish ferry operator was the sole bidder in January for both ships but offered less than half the $10 million sought by the state. State officials say they’ve since negotiated a higher selling price of more than a half-million dollars.

The $5,174,444 will be transferred into the state’s vessel construction fund, an account used for future ferry maintenance and construction. A deal over two brand-new diesel engines is being negotiated separately, DOT’s regional spokesman Sam Dapcevich said.

The heavy-lift vessel Red Zed I — currently off the coast of Vancouver Island — is expected to take the 235-foot ships and transport them to Spain via the Panama Canal in coming weeks, he added.

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

Previous articleState files action to take Native allotment to build road in Bethel
Next articleLISTEN: Gov. Mike Dunleavy discusses pandemic recovery