KETCHIKAN (AP) -- A $5.3 million upgrade for the state ferry Matanuska has been awarded to a Ketchikan shipyard, according to the Alaska Marine Highway System.
Alaska Ship and Drydock Inc. will spend the winter upgrading portions of the ferry after being declared the low bidder for the project.
''Unless there is an objection before Sept. 15, Alaska Ship and Drydock will do the work,'' George Capacci, general manager of the Alaska Marine Highway System, told the Ketchikan Daily News.
The contract for ''Safety of Life At Sea'' upgrades and other maintenance projects would be the largest contract the shipyard has received.
The project includes ventilation modifications; a new emergency communications system; structural modifications for fire control; and other work.
Capturing the upgrade and maintenance contract takes some of the pressure off the shipyard when it comes to locking up big money projects for the winter.
''It gives us an assurance that we will be able to at least maintain our employment levels from 1999,'' said Doug Ward, director of shipyard development.
In 1999, the shipyard averaged 109 workers, and at one point reached 148 employees. Ward said this year's employment is hovering around last year's average. The Matanuska project alone will ensure employment of 85 shipyard workers.
The shipyard previously did upgrades on the state ferries Taku and Columbia, along with annual maintenance work on the system's four other ships.
''Alaska Ship and Drydock has gotten better over time,'' Capacci said. ''It's the same type of work they did on the Taku, so they should be knowledgeable.''
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