Construction to begin on state fast ferry

Posted: Friday, July 12, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The state's transportation commissioner will travel to Connecticut next week to take part in ceremonies kicking off construction of the Alaska Marine Highway's first fast ferry, the Fairweather.

Commissioner Joe Perkins will travel to Derecktor's shipyard at Bridgeport, Conn. to participate in ''a cutting ceremony.''

That's the equivalent of a keel-laying ceremony, said George Capacci, marine highway general manager. A button will be pushed to start robot helium oxygen torches that precisely cut aluminum for the ship's hull.

For the past few months, Nigal Gee and Associates has been doing detailed design work and submitting those design drawings for approval by the Norwegian classification society and the U.S. Coast Guard. About 25 to 30 percent of the design has been approved and the project is ahead of schedule, Capacci said.

The Fairweather will make round-trip runs between Juneau and Sitka. The vessel's top speed is 32 knots, about twice the speed of the current fleet.

The fast ferry is expected to cost about $35 million, mostly in federal money.

Following construction of the Fairweather, the company will begin building the Chenega, which will operate in Prince William Sound between Cordova and Valdez.

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