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The Next WSF Vessels Could Be Built Outside of Washington State

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

December 7, 2023

© Chris Fabregas / Adobe Stock

© Chris Fabregas / Adobe Stock

The next newbuilds for Washington State Ferries (WSF) could be built by a shipyard outside of Washington as the state seeks to accelerate its ferry electrification program.

The Washington State Department of Transportation's (WSDOT) WSF earlier this week issued a request for information to the shipbuilding industry across the country as part of its effort to contract for five new hybrid-electric Olympic-class ferries. Responses are due in January and will provide critical information for the Invitation for Bid in spring 2024, the agency said.

Washington state law previously required all WSF newbuilds to be constructed by shipyards within the state, but new legislation passed earlier this year allows WSDOT to solicit bids nationwide, clearing the agency to potentially contract with multiple shipyards—either inside or outside Washington state—to accelerate delivery after the program fell behind schedule. WSDOT is now aiming to have the first two vessels delivered by spring 2028.

The contract or contracts must be for a minimum of two vessels, with options for up to five vessels in total. WSDOT is required to award a credit of 13% of the bid price for bid proposals for vessels constructed in the state of Washington.

The WSF ferry system, the largest in the country, is being converted to hybrid-electric power by 2040 following mandates from the Washington legislature and governor. WSDOT said its transition to a hybrid-electric ferry fleet aims to slash emissions as well as operations and maintenance costs while bosting fleet resiliency.

The nearly $4 billion WSF electrification plan calls for the delivery of 16 new hybrid electric vessels by 2040.

Washington shipbuilder Vigor was originally tapped in 2019 to design and build up to five 1,500-passenger, 144-vehicle hybrid electric Olympic-class ferries, but WSDOT opted in 2022 to relaunch the competitive bid process following disagreements with the shipyard over price and other contract terms.

In addition to the newbuild program, shore charging will be added to 16 WSF terminals and six existing WSF vessels are being converted to hybrid-electric power. Earlier this year, Vigor was awarded a contract to convert up to three of WSF's Jumbo Mark II class ferries to hybrid-electric power.

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