Nichols: New ferry contract means 85 jobs

The new contract to help build Washington state's next ferry will mean new jobs — and rehires for laid-off workers — at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, an official with the Freeland shipyard said Wednesday.

US Fab officials announced this week that final agreements had been reached with the subcontractors who will help build the new vessel, which will carry 1,500 passengers and 144 vehicles and is based on the design for the 130-car Issaquah-class ferries. More than two dozen subcontractors will take part in the project, led by prime contractor US Fab, a subsidiary of VIGOR Industrial.

Matt Nichols, director of new development at Nichols Brothers, said the new contract means 85 jobs on Whidbey Island and Everett alone, including new hires as well as hire-backs.

Nichols Brothers has agreed to a $17 million contract to build the ferry’s superstructure, which is the part of the vessel from the car-deck level up.

Nichols praised the work of state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, a 10th District lawmaker who sponsored a bill that made construction of the new ferry possible.

Senate Bill 5742 created the Capital Vessel Replacement Account to fund the construction of a 144-car ferry by allowing the state Transportation Commission to impose a 25-cent surcharge on each ferry fare, with the proceeds directed to the construction of a ferry.

“Sen. Haugen has always been very effective in the Legislature at finding the money for the construction of the last three 64-car ferry boats and now the 144-car ferry,” Nichols said.

“She’s just an excellent legislator who works for the community in any way she can to help create jobs,” he said.

State officials announced last month they had reached agreement with VIGOR Industrial and its US Fab shipbuilding division to build a new 144-car ferry.

Officials involved with the project expect it will mean more than 500 jobs across the region. Construction of the new ferry is expected to start in February.

The vessel is expected to take 27 months to finish. The construction cost is estimated at $115 million, with the total cost of the vessel pegged at $147 million.

“This means jobs not only on Whidbey but across the entire Puget Sound area,” said Haugen, a Camano Island Democrat who is also chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

“It’s great for workers, it’s great for the state, and it’s great for cities and counties," she said. "This makes all the work that went into passing this bill last year worth it.”


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