State begins ferry replacement process

KODIAK — The Alaska Marine Highway System has begun looking for a consultant to design the ferry that will replace the Tustumena.

The estimated cost of a ship to replace the 49-year-old Tustumena is between $175 million and $210 million.

While getting a replacement for the Tustumena is a priority, AMHS will not be rushing the design process. It is estimated that the design of the new ferry will take around 18 months.

“The design for the Tustumena is moving to the top of the list,” AMHS spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow said. “Because of the complexity of the ship, it’s one of those things you don’t want to go too fast because you want to make sure you get it right, especially for the areas you serve.”

Engineering and design services alone are expected to cost more than $1 million. The request for proposals, formally listed on the state website, calls for engineering and design services to prepare a communication plan, public participation plan, reconnaissance report, environmental services, a design study report, plans, specifications and estimates, and provide design support during advertising and construction.

Woodrow said it’s too early to say what the public participation plan will entail.

“We definitely will be reaching out to communities and residents who will be using this ferry to get their opinions and use that as a guideline for what we need to include into the design of the ferry,” he said. “There will be a different level of participation and public input as we go through different parts of the design.”

AMHS plans to award a bid in October. The selected design and engineering company will be expected to work from Oct. 15 to Aug. 31, 2018.

“We’re hoping that bids are awarded by October and we get a consultant right away,” Woodrow said.

The firm must have experience in designing projects of equal or greater magnitude and complexity, and must have designed and provided plans for at least one similar vessel in the last five years.

All submissions will be reviewed by AMHS management to make sure the firm has the capability to meet the required services.

“We’re looking at past experience, and the ability to show that they actually can produce what we need to include into the design of the ferry,” Woodrow said. Woodrow expects AMHS will receive proposals from bidders outside of Alaska. 

The full request for proposals package can be obtained in person from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities office. Proposals must be received by 4 p.m. Sept. 26.

Return delayed — again

On Sept. 6, Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Jerome Selby revealed the state ferry Tustumena will remain in dry dock through at least mid-October, marking yet another delay in the return of Kodiak’s principal ferry.

“We will continue to have service from the Kennicott,” Selby said to assuage concerns that Kodiak will lose all connections to the mainland.

Selby’s announcement followed an email from Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Pat Kemp, who told Southwest Alaska municipal leaders in an email that Coast Guard inspections revealed Seward Ship’s Dry Dock installed too-thin steel plating in the Tustumena. The plating must be cut out and replaced with thicker steel, requiring a delay.

The latest delay is at least the fifth since the Tustumena entered dry dock in November on what was supposed to be a six-month stay. Extensive corrosion was discovered, requiring more work. After the work was complete, Coast Guard inspectors discovered faulty welds throughout the ship. Ferry system spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said in July that the dry dock is liable for $20,000 in liquidated damages every day after July 12, the date the Tustumena was scheduled to return to service. That would add up to more than $1.1 million in damages, but there is a cap on total damages at $600,000.

“Regardless the Shipyard is still under contract to deliver the vessel on time. The exact amount that the shipyard will be responsible for won’t be known until after the project is complete and all work orders have been submitted by the shipyard and reviewed by AMHS,” wrote Woodrow in an email to The Associated Press.

The damage to Kodiak’s tourism industry has been severe. With only the ferry Kennicott providing service to the archipelago, fewer people have been able to reach Kodiak, and the ferry schedule has been erratic.

Borough assemblyman Aaron Griffin said Thursday night that it may be time for the borough to consider transportation options independent of the state. That could include extending the Kodiak road system, an island ferry, or some other way to get people to the archipelago from the mainland.

“It is time for us to take a very hard look at how we connect our communities and whether the state is a viable partner in that,” he said.

Information from the Kodiak Daily Mirror and The Associated Press. Contact Mirror writer Nicole Klauss at