Freeland shipyard gets $17 million contract for work on 144-car ferry | UPDATE

Shipbuilders in Freeland are anxious to get to work now that agreements are in place for Nichols Brothers Boat Builders to play a major role in constructing Washington state’s next ferry.

US Fab officials announced this week that final agreements had been reached with the subcontractors who will help build the new 144-car ferry. More than two dozen subcontractors will take part in the project, led by prime contractor US Fab, a subsidiary of Vigor Industrial.

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.

“Everybody’s excited,” said Nichols Brothers CEO John Collins.

“We’re looking forward to working with Vigor,” he said, noting the companies had shared work on the recent projects to build three 64-car ferries for the state.

“We’ve been a good partner with them in the past, as they have (with us),” he said.

Collins said the contract would mean plenty of jobs at the Freeland shipyard.

“I can tell you the job itself will involve at least roughly 100 workers,” he said.

There will be even more beyond the shores of Whidbey Island. US Fab officials said the ferry project will mean more than

500 jobs in Puget Sound, some new, and the project will support an estimated 2,000 additional indirect jobs in Washington.

The work will stretch from Tacoma to Everett to Whidbey, and is expected to involve more than two dozen other subcontractors in the region.

US Fab will construct the ferry’s hull at its Harbor Island shipyard in Seattle. Other subcontractors include Eltech Electric of Seattle, which will handle electrical installation; Vigor Marine of Everett, which will be responsible for final outfitting, including flooring, galleys, restrooms, insulation, and heating and air conditioning; and Jesse Engineering of Tacoma, which will build the drive-on, drive-off ends of the vessel.

“These agreements ensure the 144-car, 1,500-passenger ferry will be built by workers in various communities in our state as the Washington Legislature directed,” said Kevin Quigley, president of US Fab.

“When passengers drive onto this ferry, they’ll enter on steel fabricated by workers in Tacoma, park atop a hull built in Seattle, ride in the passenger decks constructed on Whidbey Island and rely on systems installed in Everett and around Puget Sound,” Quigley added.

The new ferry — which is based on the design for the 130-car Issaquah-class ferries — will replace the M/V Evergreen State, built in 1954, will take 27 months to build. Delivery to Washington State Ferries is planned for February 2014.

The construction cost is estimated at $115 million, with the total cost of the vessel pegged at $147 million.

Work on the new ferry will begin in February, and keel laying is expected to occur in May.

Collins said work on the project at the Freeland yard will likely begin in spring.

Nichols Brothers employees were given the early word last week that the shipyard would be a subcontractor on the project.

Still, there was excitement this week in the shipyard when the news was made official.

“They see it as job security and all those good things,” Collins said. “Certainly, it is.”

Local leaders were also enthused.

“It’s great news. Our local economy needs that kind of stability,” said Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson.

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders has a solid reputation for its work on other ferry projects, she added.

“There’s good reason why they were chosen,” Price Johnson said.

Price Johnson 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.

“Her leadership has been instrumental for our community and our state’s transportation network,” Price Johnson said.

Haugen, a Camano Island Democrat who is also chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the ferry project would provide a valuable economic boost to the region.

“This means jobs not only on Whidbey but across the entire Puget Sound area,” Haugen said.

“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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