KODIAK — The state of Alaska is planning to replace a ferry that serves Kodiak and southwest Alaska but has been out of service for repairs since November.
The 49-year-old vessel Tustumena had been scheduled to return to service in April but that date was pushed back to July.
“If that boat gets seriously delayed, we really feel it’s very important that we replace it as quickly as we can,” marine highway system general manager John Falvey said.
Aging steel and wear-and-tear from North Pacific voyages have taken a toll on the Tustumena, known by some passengers as the “rusty Tusty,” the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.
Falvey has laid out an aggressive replacement schedule in which a committee would begin drafting plans and specifications for a new ship this fall.
Following research and public comments, construction could begin in 2015 if there is funding.
Falvey is considering a roughly 320-foot long replacement ship — bigger than the existing 296-foot Tustumena but smaller than the 382-foot Kennicott, which has picked up some of the Tustumena’s workload but can’t fit into some of its ports.
The plan calls for using $10 million from the state vessel replacement fund for design work.
The Tustumena was built in 1964 for about $2.8 million. Originally designed as a 305-foot ship, it was shortened to 240 feet after costs escalated.
The shortened design, however, proved unstable in Gulf of Alaska storms and too small for demand. It was lengthened but entered dry dock less than a decade later when it was found the added size made it too weak to withstand storms.
Since then, the vessel has undergone repeated overhauls and refurbishments.