State rejects would-be ferry builder

1 of 3 competitors lacks experience for high-speed catamarans, according to the state

Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2001

The state has weeded out one of three shipbuilders competing for a contract to build two fast ferries, including one slated to run between Juneau and Sitka.

Eastern Shipbuilding of Florida does not have enough experience to build the high-speed aluminum catamarans sought by the state Department of Transportation, said Bob Doll, regional director of the agency.

However, Derecktor Shipyards of New York and Austal USA, an Australian company with a shipyard in Alabama, have the expertise, said Doll, adding he was confident both companies would bid for the contract.

"Both of these firms have made substantial commitments to their own future based on winning this contract, and I believe those commitments would be wasted if they did not participate," Doll said.

The agency rejected the Florida company after reviewing preliminary proposals submitted by the shipyards, said Doll. The state plans to accept price bids for the contract in early December.

Under terms of the contract, the winning shipyard will build the Juneau-Sitka ferry, a Cordova-Valdez vessel and have an option to build two more. The Juneau-Sitka ferry is the only vessel fully funded so far.

The first phase of the contract is for the Juneau-Sitka ferry and some items, such as engines, for the Cordova-Valdez vessel, said Doll, who estimates the first phase will cost about $36 million. The contractor will build the second ferry when the state Legislature approves funding for it, he said.

The is the second time the agency has attempted to hire a shipyard to build the fast ferries, which will carry 250 passengers and the equivalent of 35 sport utility vehicles. The state in April rejected a $35.99 million bid by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Washington state, calling it "nonresponsive."

The three shipyards that submitted preliminary proposals this time also did so last time, but they stopped short of bidding on the contract.

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Kathy Dye can be reached at kdye@juneauempire.com.



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