The in basket: During the run-up to the ferry Chetzemoka’s
beginning service from Port Townsend, I thought I heard one of the
Seattle TV stations call it the most expensive ferry ever built in
Can that be true, I asked ferry spokespersons. It’s only about
half the size of the Mark II jumbos our ferry system had built,
although that was many years ago.
The out basket: I don’t know if ferry public affairs already had
it written, but I almost immediately got back the following news
release claiming seven inaccuracies in reports about the new
The Chetzemoka: setting the record straight
While we have appreciated the generally accurate coverage of
Washington State Ferries’ new, 64-vehicle Chetzemoka ferry, there
are a few inaccuracies in various media reports that we would like
to address. With today’s 24-hour news cycle, information is
reported quickly and often repeated again and again and/or picked
up and used by others.
The Chetzemoka has an unanticipated or unintended incline to one
side (list) that is noticeable while the boat is sailing, making it
inefficient and creating safety concerns.
information: The 1 percent list is part of the design to maximize
the number of trucks/oversize vehicles the vessel can carry, and is
due to the location of three stair towers and two elevators on one
side. Based on the design, the ferry has no list when loaded with
vehicles. As part of the vessel’s certification process, the U.S.
Coast Guard performed a vessel-wide stability test and deemed the
Chetzemoka safe. The Island Home, a Massachusetts ferry whose
design was used for the Chetzemoka, also has a designed-in 1
percent list that is eliminated when the vessel is loaded with
vehicles. There is no plan to add ballast (weight) to counter this
list when the vessel is not loaded.
The Chetzemoka is the most expensive ferry ever built in the United
information: WSF’s Jumbo Mark II ferries cost $86 million each. The
Kennicott (Alaska) cost more than $80 million. The Hawaiian
Superferries, the Alakai and Huakai, came in at $85 million and $91
million, respectively. (The Chetzemoka cost $79.4
The Chetzemoka was supposed to cost $65.5 million but, instead,
cost $80.1 million.
information: Final cost of the Chetzemoka was $79.4 million. The
original budget was $76.93 million (including construction, risk
and contingency, and construction management). The $65.5 million
figure was the construction bid from Todd Shipyards. It is a
standard practice in capital budgeting to include contingency and
risk costs and construction management. There has been an
additional $663,000 of work on the Chetzemoka that will be charged
to the three-vessel procurement program. When the Legislature
funded the second and third vessels with a $136.3 million budget,
WSF combined that with the $76.93 million Chetzemoka budget, giving
us one budget for all three boats totaling $213.2 million.
The original engineer’s estimate to build the Chetzemoka was $49.5
information: The original $49.5 million engineer’s estimate was
calculated assuming there would be competition. At the start of the
process, four shipyards were interested. Three removed themselves
for various reasons, including bonding and apprenticeship goals. A
$58.2 million engineer’s estimate was used at bid opening, using
the labor rate of the single source bid. The final construction bid
was $65.5 million, or 11 percent different from the estimate.
WSF crews say the Chetzemoka is plagued with problems.
information: The captains and crews who have trained on and are
operating the Chetzemoka are pleased with the vessel’s performance.
A number of media outlets have interviewed the captains and crews
of the vessel, who are very forthright in their approval of the
The Chetzemoka’s propellers are inefficient.
information: The Island Home has fixed-pitch propellers like the
Chetzemoka, which operate well in challenging waterways with
currents and restricted harbors in Massachusetts. WSF developed
procedures and engine-control protocols during several weeks of sea
trials to ensure efficient operation. The vessel is operating on
WSF’s most challenging route, with strong cross currents at the
narrow, shallow Keystone Harbor.
WSF needs to get out of the business of designing and building
information: WSF does not design or build vessels. Elliott Bay
Design Group designed the Chetzemoka and Todd Pacific Shipyards