March 31, 2013 in Nation/World

$751,000 is sole bid for $80 million ferry

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

This undated photo provided by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough shows the 200-foot ferry.
(Full-size photo)

PALMER, Alaska – An unwanted, $80 million ice-breaking ferry owned by an Alaska borough has only one bid to buy it, and it’s for $751,000.

The bid was the only entered by Friday’s deadline set up by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which has been trying to get rid of the 200-foot ferry. The borough doesn’t have to accept the offer.

The vessel was completed in 2011 and born out of a partnership between the borough, which wanted a ferry, and the Navy, which wanted a fast military landing craft.

Named the Susitna, the ferry was built as a Navy prototype that would be owned and operated by the borough. The project was funded mainly with Department of Defense earmarks wedged into the federal budget by then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

The borough has no suitable docks or a workable business plan to operate the vessel as a ferry between Anchorage and Port MacKenzie.

With monthly costs to the borough averaging $75,000 for insurance, maintenance, fuel, docking fees and other expenses, the Borough Assembly has directed employees to find the most economical way to shed it.

While the borough solicited buyers, it also launched a parallel track to give away the boat to a government organization that met federal requirements. Of those that expressed interest, proposals by Los Angeles County and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still being evaluated by the Federal Transit Administration.

On Friday, Russ Krafft, the borough purchasing officer, opened the sole bid, a $751,000 offer from Workships Contractors BV, based in The Netherlands. It wants to use the vessel to support offshore wind farms.

“I was expecting more offers and higher offers, even if it was just for scrapping the vessel,” said Marc Van Dongen, the borough’s port director.

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