Tacoma shipbuilder offers to build a new Port Townsend ferry on the fast track

PORT TOWNSEND – In three months, J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corp. of Tacoma could have union workers cutting steel for a new ferry to serve the Port Townsend-Keystone route, a company representative said.

Jonathan Platt, a lobbyist with Martinac’s Safe Passage Ferries Project, spoke to about 30 people at a Thursday night forum at Fort Worden State Park Commons.

The forum was sponsored by the Washington State Ferries and the North Sound Ferry Advisory Council.

“There is a design available, and we could deliver a boat in 2009,” he told the Peninsula Daily News.

The state ferry system has not received a proposal from Martinac, nor have company officials directly discussed the matter with the state, said Marta Coursey, director of communications for the state ferry system.

“I know that they are very interested, and have been for a long time, in building vessels for that route,” she said.

J.M Martinac filed a federal lawsuit last fall accusing state officials of civil racketeering in the matter of contracts for building state ferries.

In 2005, a judge ruled that the state at one point had unlawfully eliminated Martinac from the bidding.

The suit is pending even as state officials – at Gov. Chris Gregoire’s insistence – have negotiated with Martinac to play a role in building new ferries.

The plan now calls for Todd Pacific Shipyards Corp. of Seattle to take the lead in building the ferries, with Martinac and Whidbey Island’s Nichols Brothers Boat Builders Inc. the primary subcontractors.

Platt said the lawsuit is on hold.

The Puget Sound shipbuilding companies agreed to build three 144-car ferries for the Seattle-area state ferries routes for about $342 million.

Such ferries are too large for the Port Townsend-Keystone route, said members of the public, and the state has agreed to pursue the manufacture of smaller ferries.

“The logic is, we’ve set up a great teaming agreement,” said Platt, one that could be applied to building new ferries to replace the four 1927-vintage Steel Electric-class ferries that serve the route between the Port Townsend and Keystone Harbor on Whidbey Island and the San Juans Islands.

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