Pierce County ferry will help troubled state fleet

Pierce County’s M/V Christine Anderson will temporarily become part of the State of Washington’s ferry fleet next month to help resolve the crisis that followed discovery of leaking in the state’s aging Steel-Electric class vessels. Representatives of Pierce County Executive John W. Ladenburg and Gov. Chris Gregoire have agreed on a rental plan that will allow the 13-year-old county ferry to serve the Port Townsend-Keystone run or some other run to be determined by Washington State Ferries.
“The loss of the vessels is an emergency for the state ferry system and the State of Washington,” Ladenburg said. “We believe that county and state ferries should work together for the benefit of all Washington citizens.”
Pierce County Public Works and Utilities, which owns the Christine Anderson and its newer twin, M/V Steilacoom II, is proceeding immediately to prepare the county ferry for transfer.
Ladenburg said the residents of Anderson and Ketron islands, who depend on the county ferry system to get to the mainland for work, school and other important parts of their lives, deserve assurance that the temporary rental to the state won’t impact the cost, quality or reliability of their service. He said the state will provide a backup ferry to the county and dock that vessel at Steilacoom. Also, the county will use rental dollars from the state to reduce the ferry fees paid by users during the period the Christine Anderson is in emergency state service. Councilmembers Terry Lee and Dick Muri have agreed to sponsor an ordinance that will reduce fees during that period of time, which is open-ended depending on the state’s need.
The rental rate to be charged by Pierce County has yet to be determined, but it will cover all costs for state use of the vessel. Such costs as maintenance and operations, insurance, depreciation and wear and tear will be included.
Scheduled overhauls on the Christine Anderson are in progress and will be completed by early January. The state will need to run the county ferry through sea trials and docking maneuvers to verify it is compatible for state deployment. County vessel crewmembers will be available to train state crews and assist in Coast Guard compliance efforts. The Christine Anderson is scheduled for routine drydocking for maintenance in May, and the county will assist the state as needed to minimize the time in drydock.
The 213-foot Christine Anderson, which went into county service in July 1994, can carry 54 cars and 250 passengers. The Steilacoom II joined the county fleet in January 2007. Both vessels were designed by Elliott Bay Design Group and Nichols Brothers Boat Building on Whidbey Island.