J.M. Martinac Sues Ferry System

Tuesday, October 24, 2006
According to reports, a Tacoma shipbuilder sued Washington State Ferries, claiming the state tried to "obstruct, frustrate and otherwise delay" the process of acquiring four new ferries from the shipbuilder. A ferry official generally denied the claim and said the state is pressing ahead to build the boats. The suit, filed in King County Superior Court on behalf of J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corp., asks for unspecified damages and is one of an ongoing series of disputes with the state ferry system.

A recent statement from the ferry system said Martinac and two other shipbuilders were technically and financially capable of building the boats. Court papers allege that the state took several steps to delay the process of designing and building the four boats, meant to replace 1927-vintage ferries. Those steps, the court papers said, included incorrectly describing Martinac's proposal to legislators and issuing reports that "contained erroneous assumptions and unfounded conclusions" about the proposal. It also said the ferry system did not disclose a lease obligation to keep running the old ferries until 2014. A trial date has not been set. Steve Reinmuth, governmental affairs director for the state Department of Transportation, said the state is pushing ahead to try to get the four new boats designed and built by 2011, with the first one scheduled to be in operation by the fall of 2009.

The state ferry system in 2005 disqualified Martinac from bidding on the work, saying it was not financially qualified. A judge overturned that ruling after an internal appeal, however.

The state allocated $321 million for the new vessels, but the system plans to ask for $26 million more. Source: P-I

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