Washington company only bidder for high-speed Juneau-Sitka ferry

Posted: Monday, April 09, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- A boat-building company from Washington state has turned in the only bid for design and construction of a high-speed catamaran to serve as a Juneau-Sitka dayboat.

Nichol Brothers Boat Builders submitted the $35.99 million bid, which was opened Friday by the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities at its headquarters in Juneau.

Nichol Brothers was one of two finalists selected by the state, based upon ship design proposals and other qualifications. The other was Derecktor Shipyards of New York state, but it didn't submit a final bid.

Nichol Brothers won't automatically be awarded the contract, however.

A routine review is being done to verify the company complied with the state's specifications, officials said.

''There's no problem with it being the only bid at all,'' said Dennis Poshard, an agency spokesman. ''That happens occasionally.''

The ferry would be the first vehicle and passenger vessel of its type ever made in the United States, state officials said.

The catamaran is designed to travel at 32 knots -- nearly twice as fast as the existing Alaska Marine Highway fleet. The ferry would carry 250 passengers and the equivalent of 35 sports utility vehicles.

Federal funding would provide most of the money to build the vessel.

The ferry is to be based at Sitka beginning in 2003 and would travel round-trip to Juneau on most days.

The fast ferry concept is part of a long-range plan by the Department of Transportation to reduce state operating costs and improve service, all at once.

With fast ferries able to serve as dayboats, the state avoids labor costs associated with overnight trips. DOT officials hope to tap federal money to pay for all five of the fast ferries it wants to operate in Southeast Alaska.

Federal money also is being targeted for a fast ferry to operate in Prince William Sound.

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