The Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber has published an in-depth article about continuing problems and concerns with the new ferry Chetzemoka and its sister ships in the Kwa-di Tabil (nicknamed the “I-Lean”) class.
“A ferry engineer, meanwhile, has directly countered several of the state’s claims about the ferries. In his own August letter to Smith, Alex Zecha, chief engineer on the Salish, one of the Chetzemoka’s sister ships, criticized several aspects of the boats’ design as well as their poor fuel efficiency. He said the boats lean more than WSF expected and claims the state has already investigated how much it would cost to correct it.
“ ‘This is not a very commendable state of affairs, particularly considering the difficulties faced in recent state budgets,’ Zecha writes.
“The state auditor’s office also appears to be questioning the ferries’ design process. It is currently finishing a yearlong audit of the ferry construction program, with results to be published next month. In a brief issued last year, the office cited citizen and legislator concern as one reason for the audit and said the audit will determine ‘whether Washington taxpayers are getting the best value for their money.’
“Some also question the way the Chetzemoka performs on the water. Nelson, who rides the boat when she commutes to Olympia, said she, like many Islanders, has seen the boat make large sweeps as it crosses the short channel, and she’s concerned about why.
“The Kwa-di Tabil boats, ferry officials say, each have two powerful, 3,000-horsepower engines, which work well on the longer Port Townsend-Coupeville route. But on Vashon, the boat’s large engines have become a problem…”
Read the full article: Questions plague Vashon’s newest ferry
In early August, Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton sent a letter to David Moseley, Assistant Secretary of Transportation. In the letter she expressed several concerns about the design and durability of the new 64-car ferries. She received a response from WSF on August 17, but is still not satisfied. She has requested a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Moseley which will also be attended by Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor. He is a former U.S. Navy warship captain who also has many questions about these ferries.
A full article about this recent development is available here, on the HeraldNet site.
On August 1, Rep. Norma Smith (R-Whidbey Island) sent a letter to State Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond and David Moseley (WSDOT Ferries Division Assistant Secretary) asking nearly two dozen questions about concerns related to issues with the design of these ferries. An article discussing the letter can be accessed here. It states that Hammond hopes to have a response for Smith as early as next week.
The full text of the letter is available here.
Lopez Island reporter C.B. Hall has written an excellent article for Crosscut.com on the challenges in operating WSF’s newest ferries:
State’s newest ferries are proving pricey
From the Kitsap Sun:
“The state ferry Chetzemoka, after only a year in service, has cracked propellers, potentially from improperly cast stainless steel.
“State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, touring Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes Friday, noticed the 64-car ferry on a lift with its props off and asked what happened.
“Dakota Creek dry-docked the boat Oct. 17 for scheduled installation of rub rails. An inspection Oct. 19 by Washington State Ferries inspectors found hairline cracks in one propeller, explained Paul Brodeur, director of vessel maintenance, preservation and engineering…”
Read the full story here.
Washington State desperately needs to modernize its aging fleet of ferry boats: nine of the 20 boats in the fleet must be replaced within the next 20 years. The Chetzemoka is the first in a series of three new 64-car ferries to be built. In theory, the Kwa-di Tabil Class boats were to be built from an “off-the-shelf” design, greatly reducing cost and time required to build them. But the Chetzemoka ended up being the most expensive ferry ever built in the US: extensive changes to the specifications by WSF resulted in the boats being essentially first-of-its-kind design; a drafting error by WSF cost the taxpayers $1 million to fix; and issues with excessive engine vibration, under-designed rub rails, and a malfunctioning pump have put the Chetzemoka into drydock several times since its launch.
All of these issues have contributed to the high cost of building and maintaining the Chetzemoka, but more importantly, point out serious flaws in the process of designing and building new ferry boats, and the lack of transparency and accountability in that process. Along with securing a stable funding source for capital projects it seems essential that the process by which new boats are designed, built, and operated must become more efficient and accountable.
For those of you who have been “in the know” about the ferry system for some time, today’s post may not include new information. But readers who are learning more about WSF will be interested in reading Wayne I. Smith’s letter to the editor that appeared in the South Whidbey Reader on 12/30/10. The full text of his letter follows:
A question that’s come up among members of this group and during the FCP meeting earlier this month relates to the legislation requiring that ferries be built in state by Washington firms. Initially people expressed concern that the cost of the Chetzemoka, the ferry recently built by Todd Shipyard was excessive, due to the fact that just one firm bid to build this ferry and two sister ships. Now it’s highly likely that Todd Shipyard will be sold to a firm based on Oregon. If this transaction does take place, what impact will it have on the contracts for the remaining two ferries? And, if the only firm that bid on these recent contracts leaves the state, who bids on future projects?
The announcement of the pending acquisition can be read here.