State puts Taku ferry up for sale

JUNEAU — The Alaska Marine Highway is beginning the long process of selling the ferry Taku.

On Jan. 30, the state ferry system announced that it will accept inquiries from any “Alaska state agency or municipality seeking acquisition of the vessel for a public purpose.”

Under state regulations, surplus property is offered to other state agencies and local Alaska governments before it goes on sale to the general public. That’s true whether the property is a desk lamp or a 352-foot oceangoing ferry.

Meadow Bailey, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said the details of the ship’s public sale are still being worked out and will be announced when and if it reaches that point.

According to the public notice Jan. 30, municipalities and other state agencies have until Feb. 21 to be considered, and a letter is no guarantee that the municipality or agency would get the ship.

Originally built in 1963, the Taku has been laid up in Ketchikan since 2015, when budget cuts to the ferry system prevented the ship from finishing needed maintenance and certification.

With the ferry system preparing to accept two new Alaska-class ferries now under construction in Ketchikan, the Taku —among the oldest in Alaska’s fleet — was earmarked for sale last year. Another ferry, the Chenega, has been laid up as well, and the status of a third, the Fairweather, is dependent upon funding levels.

In November, the Federal Highway Administration approved selling the Taku. That approval was needed because the Taku was the recipient of millions of dollars of federal repairs and renovations in its lifetime.

The last state ferry to go up for sale was the Bartlett, in 2003. In that case, the state sold the ship — which entered Alaska service in 1969 — on eBay.

It sold for $389,500 to Lloyd Cannon of All Alaskan Seafoods. Cannon had various ideas for the ship, according to reports at the time, but in 2008 he donated the ship to Seattle Maritime Academy.

Students at the academy refitted the ship, and it remains moored in Ballard Ship Canal, still wearing the blue-and-gold livery of the marine highway.