• Half a billion-dollar Olympic-class ferry project on time & on budget

    By: Amy Clancy

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - Vigor Shipyard on the south side of Seattle's Elliott Bay is a busy, noisy place where the Washington State Ferries’ last two Olympic-class vessels are currently being built.

    The MV Chimacum is 81% completed, and will leave dry-dock on Friday. It will be moved to Vigor’s Terminal 3, where the finishing work will be done before its early 2017 launch date.

    The MV Suquamish is 25% completed, with a Fall 2018 launch date. [+ See photos.]

    Both vessels are still months from servicing Washington state ferry passengers, but the entire $515.5 million project “is on time and within budget,” according to WSF Spokesperson Brian Mannion.

    The first two boats in the Olympic-class -- the Tokitae and Samish -- launched in 2015.  

    With a year of sailing experience, only minor design tweaks have been made on the two newest boats still under construction. 

    “On the last two vessels, there will be two seating benches removed,” Washington State Ferries’ Vessel Projects Engineer, Ron Wohlfrom, told KIRO 7 on Wednesday. “We found out, when you came out of the pilot house, the seats blocked access.” 

    According to the WSF, building costs have declined with each vessel. 

    KIRO 7 took a tour of the MV Chimacum, a Washington State Ferry expected to begin service on the Seattle-Bremerton run in early 2017. The ferry will hold 144 cars and is expected to be in service for decades.
    © 2018 Cox Media Group.

    The price tag of the first boat, the Tokitae, was $144 million.

    The Samish, $126 million.

    The Chimacum will be $123 million.

    And the Suquamish, $122 million.

    “It’s been a great benefit to Vigor and to the state to build the four ferries in sequence,” Vigor’s Director of Manufacturing, Jonathan Spaulding, said. “We’ve learned as we’ve gone along, and we’ve become more efficient. And we’ve been able to negotiate better deals with suppliers.”

    Building the boats in the same location, in succession, using the same workers and contractors also saves training time. 

    “Crews can train on one vessel, then go to the next vessel and the items are in the exact same place, and literally are installed the same way," Wohlfrom said.

    Washington law dictates that all state ferries be manufactured locally. 

    According to the WSF, that requirement provides local jobs and ensures expert maintenance for the boats, which are expected to sail for 60-plus years.

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