State ferry officials say they’ll seek bids on Tustumena replacement in early January

the state ferry Tustumena
The state ferry Tustumena docked at the Port of Dutch Harbor (Hope McKenney/KBBI)

Alaska Marine Highway officials plan to ask shipyards in the coming weeks to submit proposals to build a replacement for the ferry Tustumena. 

Director Craig Tornga said in an interview Wednesday that the state ferry system is hoping to move ahead with a request for bids early next year.

“We’re ready to put out (a request for proposals). I was hoping we’d have it out here now, but it’s not,” Tornga said. “This is for the construction phase, and the goal right now is to have it out the first week of January.”

That’s several months behind earlier plans – Tornga told the Alaska Marine Highway Operations Board this summer that he hoped to have the project out for bids by the end of September.

As one reason for the delay, Tornga told the board on Dec. 1 that he wanted to make sure shipyards would actually be interested. When the project was first offered in the spring of 2022, nobody submitted a bid. Tornga attributed the failure to the structure of the contract.

In the meantime, Tornga told the board he’d met with Eastern Shipbuilding, Fincantieri, Bollinger, Conrad Shipyards and three smaller firms to gauge their interest and iron out the terms. He said he expects to get some bids this time around.

“We do have four yards that are very interested in it,” he said.

Tornga said the design of the hybrid diesel-electric Tustumena replacement is nearly complete, and he says he hopes to select a builder in early 2024.

“If we award it to a yard here early this next year, … we’ll finish up the functional design, and the shipyard would be working on the production, detailed production engineering,” he said. “We could start, you know, construction before the end of next year.”

Unlike the Tazlina and Hubbard, which were built in the Vigor Alaska shipyard in Ketchikan on a sole-source contract, Tornga said the Tustumena replacement project needs a larger facility and will be offered to shipyards across the U.S.

Eric Stone covers state government, tracking the Alaska Legislature, state policy and its impact on all Alaskans. Reach him at

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