New ferry Salish begins sea trials today

The state's newest ferry will is expected to start sea trials today in the waters of Puget Sound, according to officials with Washington State Ferries.

The ferry Salish, built by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland and Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, is undergoing reviews by Coast Guard and state ferry inspectors before the state ferry system accepts delivery of the vessel.

The Salish is expected to start service on the Coupeville (Keystone)-Port Townsend route later this summer. It will mark the first time that two ferries have been used on the run since the Steel Electrics were pulled from service in 2007.

“We’re pleased to be getting this vessel on the water for its initial sea trials on schedule and on budget,” said Steve Welch, president and CEO of Todd Pacific Shipyards.

“These sea trials bring the state one step closer to getting a second new ferry into service,” added David Moseley, assistant secretary for WSF. “Much like our friends in Port Townsend and Whidbey Island, we look forward to the Salish restoring full service on the route.”

State ferry crews are expected to begin training aboard the Salish later this spring. Crew training is expected to take six weeks.

The ferry M/V Chetzemoka, the Salish’s sister ship that was also built by Nichols Brothers and Todd Pacific Shipards, began service on the Coupeville (Keystone)-Port Townsend route in November 2010.

Todd Pacific Shipyard was awarded a $114.1 million contract to build the Salish and another 64-car ferry in October 2009.

The third Kwa-di Tabil-class ferry, the Kennewick, is expected to be delivered in winter 2012. The Kennewick will serve the Point Defiance-Tahlequah route.

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