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The M/V Susitna – the not so “Free Ferry”

ferry susitna

M/V Susitna Timeline:

2002 – Lew Madden comes up with idea for a ferry to connect Anchorage to Point MacKenzie in the Mat-Su Valley & pitches his idea to the Mat-Su Borough

2003 – MSB solicits proposals for the Knik Arm Ferry

Lockheed Martin wins with its proposal to “purpose-build” a transforming Catamaran with an eye towards also pitching the design to the US Navy for its landing craft program

The MSB pays Lockheed over $2.5 million for the design (funds initially are federal dollars)

2005 – Alaska Senator Ted Stevens gets involved and the US Navy partners with Lockheed to develop the M/V Susitna as an experimental ship (a prototype of a landing craft of the future)

2006 – Keel laying at Alaska Ship and Drydock (now called Vigor shipyard) in Ketchikan

Navy spends $78 million to build the ship

June 2010 – Ship Christening

MSB announces that the MV Susitna will remain in Ketchikan for the time being

MV Susitna is docked at Ward Cove, Ketchikan.  The MSB pays tens of thousands per month in upkeep costs.

The Ferry never goes into service because of a lack of funds and landing terminals.

2013 – MSB puts ferry up for sale

and begins negotiating with the Federal Transit Administration which wants its money back. $12 million of FTA grant money (to promote mass transit) was used to build the ferry and ferry terminal building (on Point Mac side) and these items were never put into operation.

2015 – Philippines Red Cross (PRC) makes an offer to buy the ship

MSB tentatively accepts offer – but in Feb, 2015, during a huge rainstorm, the ferry is damaged.  3 of 4 engines needs to be replaced/repaired.

Feb 2016 – MV Susitna travels down to Seattle for the costly repairs

July 2016 – the MSB finalizes the sale of the ferry to the PRC for $1.75 million

March, 2017 –  The Susitna is delivered to the PRC following a 15,000 mile voyage across the Pacific Ocean aboard a Harley Marine Services barge.

In the beginning, there was so much hope for the ferry:

But then, the MSB had to pay for all the ongoing costs for the Ferry which was never put into service:

Posting these links for posterity:

The World’s Most Ridiculous Ship Is Up For Sale [UPDATE]

Borough finalizes sale of MV Susitna

Infamous MV Susitna Finally Put to Use in the Philippines

Ferry sale

Below is a good article about the ship with a lot of historical information:

The genesis of the ship was not with the Navy but with the MSB itself.  Many people think we obtained this ferry because it was a surplus Navy item and our U.S. Senators arranged for it to be given to the MSB to use as a ferry.  Not true. An Alaskan named Lew Madden was the force behind this unique ship and it was built specifically for the MSB.  The MSB is the entity that commissioned it.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

Ferry article

The ship today:

Also – posting this for posterity:

The MSB never answered my questions about the $ 3.1 million in Repair Costs.  Here is my email to various MSB staffers from May 16, 2018:


The MSB Attorney announced yesterday that the MSB has settled with our insurer, Lloyd’s of London, and we will be reimbursed $2.5 million for our costs incurred to repair the ferry.  The attorney mentioned that the case we filed in Ohio has been dismissed.  
The attorney told the Assembly members that if they had any questions, they could come by his office to talk to him and/or review the documents. 
As a member of the public, I have some questions: 
1.  Where was the case filed? What court? What is the case name and the case number? 
2.  What law firm did we hire in Ohio and what were our total attorney fees? 
3.  Why did the MSB pay “Associated Marine Providers” $3.093,488  for the repairs instead of paying the company which actually fixed the ferry directly? What company did the repair work? What were the actual costs? (See MSB Resolution 16-015 and Ordinance 16-013)  
4.  “Associated Marine Providers” or AMP is solely owned by John P. Stormont, our “ferry captain.” What was our contract with Mr. Stormont re: these repairs?  In other words, what was his fee for assisting us with this?  Why didn’t we do a regular RFP? Also, were the fees paid to Mr. Stormont to assist with the ferry repair issue above and beyond what we were already paying him to work as our ferry captain? 
5.  Finally, why didn’t the Attorney announce this news during the “Attorney Report” section of the regular 6 p.m. Assembly meeting? It seems to me that this is where such an announcement should be made. (He made his comments instead during the 4 p.m. Special Assembly Meeting which was a meeting dedicated to the annual evaluation of the Manager.) 
P.S. What is the status of the FTA pay-back demand? 

Ferry repairs questions answer

I never did receive these public records.

2/14/19 – Update on FTA money payback issue. This note was including in the newest CAFR which was posted today on the MSB’s website: