Alaska officials work to close sale of state's fast ferries

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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Marine Highway System is working to finalize the sale of its fast ferries to an overseas bidder, officials said.

Mediterranean-based catamaran operator Trasmapi SA offered about $4.6 million for the M/V Fairweather and M/V Chenega ferries, CoastAlaska reported Wednesday.

The offer was less than half the $10 million reserve price set by the state.

Bids were opened Jan. 13, and a state procurement officer at the time said a lower price could still be negotiated.

John Falvey, general manager of the state-run ferry system, told the Senate Transportation Committee Tuesday that the state has “a responsive bidder” and that officials were continuing to work to close the deal.

Alaska commissioned the fast ferries in the mid-2000s. They were popular because they completed voyages in about half the time as conventional ships.

The ferries were taken out of service in 2015 and 2019. The marine highway system cited rising fuel costs and poor performance in rough seas.

The amount the state is seeking for the purchase of the ferries was not clear. The price for the 235-foot (72-meter) catamarans when they are first sold is $68 million.

Trasmapi operates ferries between mainland Spain and the country's island of Ibiza. The Spanish company also offered about $411,000 for a pair of diesel engines, which cost about $3 million new.

“The two swing engines which are in our warehouse and hermetically sealed containers, unused, they were also part of the sale,” Falvey said.