The Alaska Marine Highway ushered in a new era in marine transportation for the community of Metlakatla with the signing of a contract to between the Department of Transportation and Conrad Industries of Morgan City, LA to build a new ferry. The new vessel will provide dedicated service between Metlakatla and Ketchikan, two of the Inside Passage’s southernmost communities.
Southeast Region Director, Bob Doll , represented the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities at the signing ceremony on November 12, 2002. "This ferry means better service to the communities of Metlakatla and Ketchikan and less cost to the State of Alaska
. That’s one of the objectives of the Southeast Alaska Transportation
Plan. I'm pleased to be on hand for this latest event in the Plan’s implementation – a document that’s been endorsed by both the public and the Legislature," Doll said.
The detailed design for the Metlakatla ferry was performed by Pat Eberhardt, P.E. of Coastwise Engineering, Juneau under contract to the State of Alaska. The vessel will be the first of its kind for the Alaska Marine Highway providing point-to-point service between only two communities.
Modeled after a North Sea supply vessel
, the Metlakatla ferry is designed to safely operate the 16 nautical mile run between Ketchikan and Metlakatla in sea state 6 conditions, 13 to 20 foot waves and winds in excess of 30 knots. Its rugged, open deck design will allow operation more than 95% of the time, with a normal operating speed of between 12 and 14 knots.
At 181 feet long, the new Metlakatla ferry will be able to transport 149 passengers and 18 vehicles. The interior spaces will have a combination of theater style and bench seating, an onboard entertainment system and both vending and video machines for the 1 -1/2 hour trip between Metlakatla and Ketchikan. The vessel will also be equipped with an elevator between the main deck and observation lounges to better accommodate passengers with disabilities.
Alaska Marine Highway General Manager George Capacci pointed out, "We have worked closely with the Metlakatla community to define their needs. Throughout the planning process, the communities told us they wanted more convenient and more predictable ferry service. Along with our new fast vehicle ferries (one of which will begin service in 2004), this vessel will make that goal a reality."