WSF reconsidering converting ferry power

It’s looking like seven ferries won’t be re-powered as envisioned.
Washington State Ferries had planned to replace the Hyak’s 48-year-old diesel generators  and diesel propulsion motors with hybrid diesel-electric generators. Director Lynne Griffth told the Transportation Commission last week that it “ended up being too costly.”
Spokeswoman Hadley Romero said Wednesday that WSF has asked to redirect funds from the Hyak hybrid project to the Olympic Class (144-car) program,  vessel maintenance and preservation. No decision will be known until after the legislative session.
The Hyak, built in 1967, was primarily a standby vessel, so didn’t get generator and motor upgrades when the other three Super-class boats did during the 1990s and early 2000s. The Hyak engines run at full power all the time, even when at the dock. The hybrids would’ve had changeable speeds and could have been partially powered by batteries. The conversion would’ve saved 20 percent of the 1.34 million gallons of fuel the Hyak burns each year. The $22 million conversion was scheduled to take place from next October to May 2016.
Three new 144-car ferries will retire the three old Evergreen Class boats in the next few years. Next to go after that would probably be the Hyak.
The state still might convert six Issaquah-class ferries to liquid natural gas, but it’s not seeming as likely. LNG fuel costs less and produces less pollution. The retrofits would pay for themselves long before the boats retired. The Coast Guard has reviewed WSF’s safety, navigation and security risk assessment. Then it will issue a letter of approval and WSF can receive proposals for conversion.
I’ve heard some in the fleet would rather design and build LNG boats from scratch, and Griffith seemed to echo those sentiments.
“I’m not opposed to the conversion, but I think long-term its going to be a better solution for us and it gives us a little bit more time for the industry to mature,” she said.
Vigor Shipyards is building three 144-car ferries and at some point will get a fourth of the same kind. After that, the state can switch tio LNG-powered vessels.

New director has handle on ferries

In a report to the Washington State Transportation Commission last week, new director Lynne Griffith showed that the former bus lady gets it.

TRANSPARENCY A PRIORITY
You hear a lot of people talk about being up front, but few follow through. I say you’re better off being truthful up front because it’ll only get worse if you don’t. I don’t have to tell Griffith that.
“We need to just be more candid and direct and provide the information because most people can figure out that there’s a back story to what we’ve been offering,” she said.
After WSF figured out what happened to the Tacoma’s electrical system that caused it to lose power off of Bainbridge Island, they invited news folks to Eagle Harbor to explain and show the damaged parts.
“You could literally watch the media move from who’s to blame to being curious and interested in the problem we were confronted with,” Griffith said.
Standard procedure with public agencies anymore is to submit a public information request if you want to find out anything. Whatever happened to just being able to talk to people?
I have a transparency tip. Stop sending out alerts about ferries missing sailings or being late because of “operational constraints.” When riders hear that, they assume there’s a staffing problem, which isn’t always the case. It could be a medical emergency or mechanical issue. Just say what it is, like you used to. I think the policy was supposed to take the focus off staffing, but it’s backfiring.

ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL
Griffith is trying to pull together an outfit that was totally fragmented when she took over.
“We need to unify the organization,” she said. “There is divisiveness between management and labor, upper and lower decks. It all hurts in achieving our goals.”
Griffith is stripping out second-level management positions so everybody is directly accountable to her.

GROWING OLD TOGETHER
Forty-six percent of vessel workers are over 55 years old, including half of the deck crews, 55 percent of engine crews and 62 percent of captains.
“A tsunami of exits are going to occur over the next 10 years,” Griffith said.
The agency needs to develop a succession plan and prepare new hires to move through the system and earn their licenses so they’re available to meet demand.

MORE BOATS
Griffith told the commission she’s asked for a 23-boat fleet instead of 22, so it’s not so hard to maintain vessels.
“Maintenance is very good,” Griffith said. “They are very capable and knowledgeable. They know what to do to fix these vessels. The problem is getting at the vessels. If they’re operating 20 hours a day, there’s really only two hours a night when maintenance teams can do the work.”
She wants to retire the 34-car Hiyu.
“Unfortunately, we don’t use it because it really can’t help us on any of the routes,” she said. “It’d be much better to have a larger vessel in reasonably good repair we could pull in (to service) when we have a disruption.”
WSF’s maintenance schedule shows the Hiyu being decommissioned in early May, though I haven’t heard anything official about that.
The 87-car Evergreen State was supposed to be retired last year, but was brought back for standby, and it’s a good thing. It’s slow and small, but a lot better than the Hiyu, or nothing.
When the next two 144-car ferries enter service, the E-State and sister Klahowya can retire. And if WSF gets the fourth 144-car boat it’s asking for, the Tillikum can join them.
Vigor will deliver the second boat, Samish, to WSF on March 27. It’ll be christened by the state’s First Lady on May 20 after sea trials and join the fleet in time for Memorial Day Weekend, the director said.
The third ferry, Chimacum, will come to the Bremerton route in March 2017. Legislators seem inclined to fund a fourth. We should know in a month.

CREATURE COMFORTS
Many boat interiors are tired-looking, and that’s not going to change for awhile, Griffith said. The agency’s limited funds must go toward keeping the ferries running and safe. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be clean and comfortable.
Better galley choices wouldn’t cost anything. Vendors provide the food and drink and recoup costs through their customers.
“I would love to see us look long and hard at what the menus are, what are the available food selections,” she said.

STAYIN’ ALIVE
Since Jan. 1, ferry workers have participated in nine lifesaving events, from heart attacks to people overboard. Griffith said last week. On Saturday, the Kaleetan crew plucked another man from the water in Bremerton.
“It’s just natural for them to do it, just part of their job,” Griffith said. “They don’t think of it as particularly miraculous.”

New wingwall for Bremerton terminal

dolphinsBy the end of Tuesday, the Bremerton ferry terminal was supposed to have a new wingwall to guide ferries to the dock.
Crews went in the water to remove and replace the battered wingwall, the last timber one in the system. They’re now made out of hollow steel pilings. The job was expected to last through February.
At Kingston and Edmonds, crews recently repaired and preserved dolphin piers — in-water structures used as landing aids for approaching ferries.

— Washington State Ferries photo

Agate Pass Bridge cleaning up well

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The first week of cleaning went well on the Agate Pass Bridge, the Department of Transportation says.  You can see above all the crud that piled up over the years in the before and after photos.
Each day, traffic was reduced to one alternating lane across the bridge from 8:45 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Knowing this, 15 percent of drivers stayed away during work hours, allowing flaggers  to keep delays to a minimum, typically between 5 and 20 minutes. Only two grumps  complained.
DOT says it would help them if people could reduce discretionary trips, change their schedules, and use the Kingston and Bremerton ferries instead of Bainbridge.
Crews have been simultaneously cleaning the bridge, making repairs and retrofitting the railing. No significant repair issues have been found.

They’ll work throughout the weekend, reducing the bridge to one lane at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, an hour earlier than weekdays. On Monday, they’ll open the lane at 2:45 p.m., to accommodate President’s Day traffic.

Transit responds to mayor’s RP1 concerns

rp1Port Orchard mayor Tim Matthes’ city council removed him from the Kitsap Transit board for more fast-ferry-friendly councilman Rob Putaansuu, but Matthes didn’t let the move silence him. He supports 30-minute trips to Seattle, but worries about the boat. The lightweight, low-wake, one-of-a-kind Rich Passage 1 is too expensive and possibly unsafe, he wrote last month to the board. Doubters applauded.
The agency responded, investigating the allegations and presenting findings during a study session Tuesday. Matthes, who was there, seemed mostly satisfied.
“I appreciated that you took the time to do that,” he said.
He did recommend that the boat undergo dye penetrant, ultrasonic and X-ray tests to establish a baseline.
Anne Blair, Bainbridge Island mayor and transit board member, thanked him for playing the devil’s advocate with a board that leans the other way.
“I’m grateful challenges were made and now we’re going to get some additional information,” she said. “This is how the process should work.“
Much literally hinges on the hydrofoil, a 14-foot wing that extends across the catamaran’s tunnel, providing lift so the boat displaces less water. The foil has been through hell during it’s short life, but emerged better for the experience, said fast ferry consultant Carla Sawyer.
It fell off during sea trials in March 2010 and had to be fished off the bottom of Bellingham Bay. After being re-engineered by a national expert and reattached, it fared well during a second round of sea trials and a four-month test carrying passengers between Bremerton and Seattle.
In January 2003, the ferry ran aground on the way to a Port Townsend shipyard and the foil’s paint was scraped up. In December 2013, a heat blanket keeping moisture out while the boat out of the water caught fire and the foil was damaged. Matthes claimed it sustained excessive stress cracks but Sawyer said only the laminate cracked. Repairs strengthened the joint, she said.
Sawyer addressed a list of problems Matthes said seem to grow with every sailing.
“Excess vibration”: None have been reported, Sawyer said.
“Diesel motor mount failure causing redesign and retrofit”: The was no failure. New mounts were installed to make the boat quieter.
“Cavitation when boat operates at hydrofoil speed”: Cavitation is typical.
“Repairs and replacement of jet drives”: Impellers were damaged when they sucked up gravel during the grounding.
“Exhaust falling off”: Never happened. Three of four had cracks that were temporarily repaired while the boat was operating and later rebuilt stronger.
“Damage to saltwater systems because of dissimilar materials”: There was premature corrosion in the fire/bilge pump system. It was replaced.
“Diesel motor warranty and repair work.”: There has been no repair work to the engines.
Special painting needed because wrong material was used in strut design”: Some paint eroded. Changes were made to reduce cavitation.
“High maintenance and operating costs”: Operating costs are in line with industry standards. Boat is built out of aluminum and composites, which require little maintenance.
Matthes compared Rich Passage 1 to a hydroplane that wipes out after hooking a sponson, writing that a failure of the foil or strut could cause loss of control and sudden change of direction. “Passengers and crew would be thrown around the cabin like rag dolls, causing injuries and loss of life.”
RP1 doesn’t fly on top of the water at 135 mph, Sawyer said. At cruise speed, it lifts about two feet, leaving one foot of the hull in the water. If the foil fell off, it would just sink like last time and the boat would drop down on its hull. There would be no violent action or injuries.
Board members showed most interest in Matthes’ assertion that the engines are over-stressed and will will wear out quickly. The boat has to race at 37 knots through Rich Passage to create the least wake, which is 90 percent of rated capacity. The rest of the time it runs at 32 knots, 65 percent of capacity.
“How long do you think these engines are going to last,” Poulsbo mayor and transit board member Becky Erickson asked about speeding up and slowing down. “I’ve been told you’re going to burn the engines up. We need to find out now to build into our cost modeling.”
She requested that manufacturer Caterpillar be consulted.
Kitsap  Transit takes passenger safety seriously, said executive director John Clauson.
“We have investigated every possible concern during the operation and building of the vessel,” he said. “It has been inspected and certified by the Coast Guard several times.”

Ferries get in on Seahawks mania

12thIn honor of the Seattle Seahawks reaching the Super Bowl again, I’m changing my name to Ed Friedhawk for this blog post. Everybody’s doing it, including Washington State Ferries. They announced that Gov. Jay Inslee directed them to honor the team by renaming the ferries after Seahawks players on Sunday.
The M/V Tacoma will become the M/V Jermaine Kearse, for example. That makes sense. Kearse is from Tacoma’s Lakes High. I hope it doesn’t jinx him, though. The Tacoma went dead in the water off of Bainbridge Island in July after an electrical explosion and is still on injured reserve.
Outside of the Tacoma, there was “no rhyme or reason” to the renaming of the other boats. It’s just coincidence that the Bainbridge route, which conspiracy theorists claim always gets the best of everything, wound up with Marshawn Lynch (Puyallup) and Russell Wilson (Wenatchee).
Conversely, Bremerton got Will Tukuafu (Cathlamet). Will Whoafu? He’s actually pretty cool. The huge fullback — 6-foot-4, 280 pounds — blasts open holes on Lynch’s runs. If he misses a block, Beast Mode runs them over anyway.
Bremerton’s other boat, the Kaleetan, will be the “Angry” Doug Baldwin. The city and receiver both have huge chips on their shoulders.
Kingston gets defensive superstars Richard Sherman (Spokane) and Earl Thomas (Walla Walla). Running the Southworth route will be cornerback Byron Maxwell (Evergreen State), offensive tackle Russell Okung (Issaquah) and defensive tackle Kevin Williams (Tillikum).
Here’s the rest of the lineup (M/V means motor vessel, by the way):
M/V Klahowya: “M/V Bruce Irvin”
M/V Chelan: “M/V Michael Bennett”
M/V Chetzemoka: “M/V J.R. Sweezy”
M/V Salish: “M/V Max Unger”
M/V Elwha: “M/V Justin Britt”
M/V Sealth: “M/V Kam Chancellor”
M/V Samish “M/V Jon Ryan”
M/V Hiyu: “M/V K.J. Wright”
M/V Hyak: “M/V Steven Hauschka
M/V Tokitae: “M/V Cliff Avril”
M/V Kennewick: “M/V James Carpenter”
M/V Kitsap: “M/V Bobby Wagner”
M/V Kittitas: “M/V Tony McDaniel”
M/V Yakima: “M/V Luke Willson”

Ferry ridership rebounding

Washington State Ferries ridership has bottomed out and is headed back up.
The agency on Friday released numbers that showed the largest rider jump — 2.7 percent — in at least 14 years. That’s when it lost license tab revenues, and started jacking up ticket prices and trimming service.
The 2.7 percent calculates to 650,000 riders, enough to fill 260 of its largest ferries.
Total 2014 ridership was 23,193,660, nowhere near the 1999 peak of 26.8 million but moving in that direction. Its the second straight gain (1.5 percent last year) after 13 years of declines. Drivers were up 1.3 percent and passengers 3.9 percent.
Bremerton led the way with a whopping 10 percent gain. Passengers were up 12.6 percent and vehicles 3.2 percent.
Bainbridge rose just half a percent, but remained the busiest route at 6.3 million riders. Edmonds-Kingston and Mukilteo-Clinton continued their annual duel for second. Kingston, boosted by a 3.6 percent gain, edged Mukilteo in 2014, 4 million  to 3.9 million. Traffic picked up less than 1 percent at Mukilteo-Clinton.
Mukilteo, however, led the system with 2,151,070 vehicles, followed by Kingston at 2,098,533 and Bainbridge with 1,953,466.
Two-thirds of Bainbridge and Bremerton riders were passengers.
The Fauntleroy-Vashon Island-Southworth route showed little change, at 0.3 percent.

Misconceptions about the possible Seahawks fast ferry trip

Judging from the comments on my Seahawks fast ferry story, some facts are in order.
The low-wake ferry Rich Passage 1 is owned by Kitsap Transit. Washington State Ferries has nothing to do with it.
A half-hour trip to the NFC championship game would largely be promotional, although it could slightly reduce crowds on the car ferries. It can carry just 118 people. The RP1 needs to be operated periodically, anyway, to keep it in good running order. Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent thinks it’d be great to kill two birds with one stone. She’s not shy about fast ferries. Like many others, Lent thinks they’d be great economically for the city and surrounding area. Many also disagree. With a proposition to run fast ferries full time possibly going on the ballot in the next year or two, she wants to showcase them as much as possible.
Nobody would make a killing on the Seahawks trip. Lent and Kitsap Transit are just trying to cover expenses, primarily crew and fuel, as the feds require. The $25 round-trip ticket wouldn’t bring in half of the $7,000 needed. That’s why Lent’s looking for sponsor organizations. I’d think they’d see it as advertising. Neither the city nor Kitsap Transit would be footing any of the bill.
Nobody is being forced to ride the boat. Car ferries will be available for about $8 for the round trip.
If voters did eventually approve the service, tickets of $25 would  be too high to be competitive with the state. Kitsap Transit is thinking more in the $12-13 range. That would cover 25 to 30 percent of operating costs, so a tax increase would be needed.

Which ferry to take to Seahawks game

If you’re headed to Seattle Saturday for the big Seahawks game or any other reason, it might help to know which boat you’re catching. At Bainbridge, it doesn’t really matter. Both the Puyallup and Wenatchee carry 202 cars and 2,500 people. There are different-sized boats running in Bremerton, however — the 124-car, 1,200-passenger Cathlamet and 144-car, 2,000-passenger Kaleetan.

Kaleetan is scheduled to depart Bremerton at 11:10 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Cathlamet is scheduled to depart Bremerton at 12:20 p.m. and 3 p.m. The game starts at 5:15 p.m. Washington State Ferries will add an unscheduled 11:30 p.m. sailing to Bremerton.

Passengers are advised to beat the rush by taking an earlier sailing and purchasing return-trip tickets online in advance.

The fast ferry Rich Passage 1 could also be an option, but they departure times and ticket-buying plan haven’t been determined yet. At last look, there would be one trip to Seattle and one back, each for $2, in the 118-seat Rich Passage 1. It can make the crossing in about a half hour. I should know more later this afternoon.

Mayor Matthes letter regarding fast ferry

Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes, in a bit of a coup, lost his seat on the Kitsap Transit board last month to city councilman Rob Putaansuu. Putaansuu had been serving the board as an at-large member. He said the board owes it to the public to ask whether they want cross-Sound ferry service because of all of the time and money invested in building the low-wake Rich Passage 1.

Matthes isn’t  enamored with the boat. Not being a board member didn’t prevent him from saying so. During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, he read a critical letter he’d written. He said the list of mechanical problems grows with nearly every sailing and there are safety issues. If the foil or strut had a breakdown at high speed, the ferry could dig into the water and splinter like hydroplane at Seafair.

“Passengers and crew would be thrown around the cabin like rag dolls, causing injuries and  loss of life,” he wrote.

Here’s a line  to the complete letter: 2015-01-06 Citizen Comment- Matthes