They say that two happiest days of boat owner’s life are the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it. For a small borough of 88,000 outside Anchorage, Alaska, that latter day may be just around the corner.
That’s because officials in Matanuska-Susitna Borough are just a few steps away from finally offloading the MV Susitna, a prototype vessel that is half landing craft, half passenger vessel, and has been costing local taxpayers millions to just sit at the docks gathering dust.
The SWATH-hulled Susitna was constructed at a rumored cost of $80 million in 2010 at the request of the Office of Naval Research, a department of the U.S. Navy that was looking to test new designs that could someday work as military vessels. The original plan called for the Susitna to be donated to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough for operation as a ferry, providing service between Anchorage and Port Mackenzie while being assessed by the ONR. But lack of funds and landing terminals prevented the ferry from ever entering service, so the vessel has spent the majority of its life tied up to a pier in Ward Cove costing the borough more than $2 million in docking fees and insurance, according to reports.
The Susitna has actually been up for sale for years, but finally this past September borough officials received a $1.75 million offer for the vessel from the Philippine Red Cross, according to local reports. The offer provided a few conditions be met, the biggest of which was that the federal government signs off on the sale of the military prototype vessel to a foreign entity.
This week, the borough announced that Federal officials have determined that the ship is subject to the lowest export control classifications, meaning it should be no issue to sell overseas.
In 2013, we labeled the Susitna as the “world’s most ridiculous ship”, primarily because of its ludicrous price tag and proven uselessness. But actually for the Philippines Red Cross, it could be just what they need.
The design for the “expeditionary craft” was created by Guido Perla & Associates, Inc (GPA) and is based on a concept created by Lockheed Martin. It is a ABS-certified “E-Craft” that measures 59 meters in length and is capable of carrying 129 passengers, plus 20 vehicles or one tractor-trailer rig. The vessel also incorporates lift technology that will allow the ferry to change from the Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull (SWATH) mode to barge mode by lowering or raising its center deck. The vessel was even built with an ice strengthened hull (the first-ever for a SWATH hull) and is beachable.
Now the sale just hinges on the successful repair of the vessel’s engine, which has already been approved by insurance, and the repayment of more than $12 million in federal grant money to the Federal Transit Administration. After that it’s a done deal… hopefully.