Guemes Island Ferry Replacement Project
County Engineer: Paul A. Randall-Grutter, P.E.
Ferry Operations Manager: Rachel Rowe
Frequently Asked Questions
- When will the new ferry go into service?
- A new vessel could be in service as early as 2020. In 2016, at the direction of the Board Commissioners, we conducted a propulsion study that concluded, based on power requirements, all-electric propulsion was highly feasible and should be considered, for the Guemes Island Ferry route.
- In 2017, Skagit County issued a Request for Proposals for a naval architecture & marine engineering firm to provide design services for the new vessel and support through vessel procurement and construction. We selected Glosten, a naval architecture firm from Seattle. Work on a design study, propulsion trade-off analysis, concept and preliminary design will begin in early August. Glosten representatives will be available to discuss their scope of work and answer questions.
- Will the new vessel be all-electric?
- Currently, no state in the U.S. operates an all-electric vehicle ferry; however, the technology has been proven in Norway. Development of the all-electric ferry demonstrates that Skagit County and Washington State are technology leaders willing to invest in safe, environmentally conscious, clean energy projects that benefit both the local community and the global environment.
- In the study on ferry traffic and what size ferry is needed, will the average ferry wait time be part of that equation? Or just the total number of trips/cars?
- Yes. We’re going to look at everything to make sure we use the ferry as efficiently as possible. There’s a period of time now when we shut down, or where riders have to wait through 2-3 ferry sailings when it’s busy on the weekend. We’re also aware that larger trucks traveling to Guemes can take up two or three car spots, so we’re going to look at that as well. We want to not only ask our local experts – residents/ferry riders/crew – but also our naval architects so we can get comprehensive data using all available sources of information.
- Does anyone have a ballpark figure on what this ferry will cost?
- Right now, no. We have some estimates in our Transportation Improvement Program plan. We base these numbers off numbers we received from Elliot Bay Design in 2013, which were based on the average cost to replace the existing ferry with a similar vessel (for example, the new Keller Ferry in Rainier, Ore., and a ferry built for the state of Texas DOT). Their estimate in 2013 dollars was $12M. However, it’s four years later and this estimate doesn’t mean a whole lot to the existing project. Once Glosten completes its preliminary design, in December 2017, we’ll have a much more accurate cost estimate.
- Is a new ferry really needed? What are the conditions of the engine and hull of the old one?
- Yes. Skagit County has determined an immediate need to replace the M/V GUEMES. If not, the vessel will require a major re-fit/re-power that is estimated to cost $3.5 million or more. The 14-Year Ferry Capital Improvement Plan currently has this re-fit and re-power planned for 2022.
- Elliott Bay Design Group conducted a study in 2013 that found, “While the overall condition of the vessel is fair, it is recommended that the M/V GUEMES not be operated for another ten years without a major overhaul. This is due to the advanced age of the vessel and high cost of extending the operation of the vessel beyond its economic useful life of 30-40 years.” A major overhaul could take the vessel out of service for 6 months to 1 year, according to the study. The report goes on to say, “…given its age, it is recommended that the life of the vessel not be extended beyond for another 15-18 years. As a vessel reaches 50 years of age, it becomes economically impractical to preserve the vessel. At such an age, many systems must be replaced, salt-water corrosion to the hull makes maintaining the vessel expensive, and the vessel may no longer be capable of meeting the service needs of the island.”
- I expect that maintenance of all-electric is cheaper than diesel. Is that true?
- Limiting the answer to the propulsion equipment itself, the answer is expected to be “yes,” until the battery bank needs replacing. Once we select the size and type of battery (during the propulsion system study) we will have a better idea of the overall maintenance cost difference. The rest of the ferry will still need a similar amount of maintenance regardless of the propulsion system selected.