Washington State Ferries Vessels & Terminals - Vessel conditions

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Vessel conditions

Source: Washington State Ferries.

Performance analysis

FY2022

Sixty-two percent of WSF's fleet in State of Good Repair; annual preservation gap projected to continue increasing

As of June 2022, 13 of 21 vessels (62%) met the agency targets for State of Good Repair. This did not achieve the agency goal of 90% that is required by the Vessel Asset Management Plan. The SOGR preservation target for each vessel is defined as having fewer than 20% of systems that are overdue for replacement or rehabilitation. The percentage is relative to the total number of systems onboard each vessel. Eight vessels in the fleet (38%) had between 20% and 25% of systems overdue for replacement or rehabilitation and were not in a SOGR in FY2022.

Vessels asset management plan highlights preservation

WSF's investment strategy for the next six years is to maintain as many vessels as possible in a SOGR with available funding. Preservation will be prioritized over improvement, and funding will be directed as required to keep all 21 vessels operating and within regulatory compliance—any remaining preservation funding will then be directed toward vessels at the mid-point of their service lives. This includes the Issaquah, Jumbo, and Jumbo Mark II classes.

WSF is not directing discretionary funding toward newer Olympic and Kwa-di Tabil classes and as a result, the preservation backlog will likely increase for these vessels. Discretionary funding will also not be directed at the Super class vessels M/V Kaleetan and M/V Yakima. As a result, any unforeseen deficiencies on these vessels could require them being removed from service.

WSF plans major preservation projects in the 2021-2023 biennium

Following its investment strategy in an effort to maintain regulatory compliance, WSF has the following major preservation projects (defined as those costing over $5 million) planned for the 2021-2023 biennium:

  • Jumbo Mark II Propulsion Controls Replacement ($17.9 million): The propulsion controls and monitoring systems on these vessels have reached the end of their service lives and cannot be supported. WSF completed the upgrade design in the 2019-2021 biennium, and materials were procured. Work on the M/V Wenatchee and M/V Tacoma is scheduled to occur in the 2023-2025 biennium.
  • M/V Tacoma Drydock & Preservation ($6.2 million): This Jumbo Mark II class vessel will receive routine drydock inspections, extensive underwater body repairs and painting, selected bilge and topside painting, vehicle deck repairs, fire screen door replacement, propulsion shaft bearing renewals and propulsion control system updates.
  • M/V Chelan Preservation ($6.3 million): WSF's only remaining vessel certified for international service will receive an underwater body inspection, vehicle deck steel repairs, renewal of deck coatings, fire main and sewage piping repairs, and an overhaul of a propulsion reduction gear.
  • M/V Samish Drydock and Preservation ($3.2 million): This Olympic class vessel will receive routine dry-docking and inspections, extensive stern tube repairs, complete rudder overhauls and repair, propeller hub exchanges, and bilge preservation.
  • M/V Tillikum Drydock and Preservation ($20 million): This Evergreen State class vessel will receive a major preservation investment to extend its life another 10 years due to lack of new vessels. Scheduled work includes routine dry-docking and inspections, propulsion shaft bearings renewals, shaft coupling replacement, complete rudder overhauls and repair, motor generator overhauls, vehicle and shelter deck steel replacement, extensive underwater body repairs and coatings, complete topside preservation of all exterior surfaces, and extensive bilge preservation.
  • M/V Yakima and M/V Kaleetan Drydock and Preservation ($15 million-$20 million per vessel): This work is under review, however, recommended at this point. The vessel class will receive a major preservation investment to extend its life another 5-10 years due to a lack of new vessels. Work scheduled would be similar to M/V Tillikum.

WSF faces challenges as it looks to address preservation issues

While WSF continues working on much-needed preservation projects, the following challenges remain:

Reliance on federal funds: The over-reliance on federal funding for the vessel preservation program is increasingly problematic. Restrictions on international purchases and competitive procurement requires specialized attention and contracting approaches to ensure compliance. New Buy America rules effective in November 2022 have further restricted WSF's ability to purchase manufactured products and have increased its reliance on state funds to address critical preservation maintenance items.

Shipyard capacity: The number of qualified shipyards has fluctuated during the last year; one local shipyard closed, and a new shipyard has started the process of becoming certified for WSF contract work. Foss Shipyard in Seattle recently went out of business, and Snow Marine on Lake Union recently applied for certification as a Prequalified WSF contractor for dockside preservation work, but cannot perform underwater repairs. Everett Ship Repair, which was previously established, has taken on several WSF preservation contracts over the last two years. Dakota Creek Industries shipyard received state approval for its apprenticeship program, making that Anacortesbased business eligible for WSF preservation contracts. Vigor remains competitive in the Puget Sound ship repair industry; however, it has signed multiyear contracts with the US Navy which are limiting its available drydock space for WSF vessels. All shipyards in Puget Sound are suffering from workforce shortages which have impacted their capabilities and project throughput.

Vessel availability: WSF does not have enough spare vessels to cover service while meeting preservation and regulatory inspection requirements. The situation worsened in the 2021- 2023 biennium due to ship repairs that exceed the normal timelines, in particular M/V Wenatchee (onboard fire because of a crankcase explosion), M/V Tokitae (gear box complications), M/V Chimacum (failed gearbox as a result of a manufacturer default) and M/V Cathlamet (collision with dock). Drydock times are also extended because of continued labor shortages at shipyards.

FY2021

Fifty-seven percent of WSF's fleet in State of Good Repair; annual preservation gap projected to continue increasing

As of June 2021, 12 of 21 vessels (57%) met the agency preservation targets for State of Good Repair, missing the agency goal of 90%. The State of Good Repair preservation target for each vessel is defined as having fewer than 20% of life-cycle cost items that are overdue for investment (replacement or rehabilitation). The remaining nine vessels in the fleet had between 20% and 25% of systems overdue.

Vessels asset management plan highlights preservation

WSF's investment strategy for the next six years seeks to maintain as any vessels as possible in a State of Good Repair with available funding. Preservation will be prioritized over improvement, and funding will bedirected as required to keep all 21 vessels within regulatory compliance.

Any remaining preservation funding will then be directed toward vessels at the mid-point of their service lives. This includes the Issaquah, Jumbo, and Jumbo Mark II classes. No discretionary funding is directed toward newer Olympic and Kwa-di Tabil classes, so the preservation backlog will likely increase for these vessels. Discretionary funding will not be directed at WSF's oldest vessels, which include the Evergreen State class M/V Tillikum and Super class vessels M/V Kaleetan and M/V Yakima. As a result, any unforeseen deficiencies on these vessels could require removal from service pending reallocation of agency funding.

WSF plans major preservation projects in the 2021-2023 biennium

Following its investment strategy in an effort to maintain regulatory compliance, WSF has the following major preservation projects (defined as those costing over $5 million) planned for the 2021-2023 biennium:

  • Jumbo Mark II Propulsion Controls Replacement ($17.9 million): The propulsion controls and monitoring systems on these vessels have reached the end of their service lives and cannot be supported. WSF completed the upgrade design in the 2019-2021 biennium, and materials were procured. Work on the M/V Wenatchee and M/V Tacoma is scheduled to occur in the 2021-2023 biennium.
  • M/V Walla Walla Drydock & Preservation ($10.4 million): This Jumbo class vessel will receive routine drydock inspections, extensive underwater body repairs and painting, selected bilge and topside painting, vehicle deck repairs, fire screen door replacement, and propulsion control system updates.
  • M/V Chelan Preservation ($6.3 million): WSF's only remaining vessel certified for international service will receive an underwater body inspection, vehicle deck steel repairs, deck covering renewal, fire main and sewage piping repairs, overhaul of the No. 1 propulsion reduction gear and electrical switchboard renewal.
  • M/V Kittitas Drydock and Preservation ($6.3 million): This Issaquah class vessel will receive routine dry-docking and inspections, hull and stern tube repairs, wet space deck covering renewal, bilge preservation, vehicle deck steel replacement, fire main and sewage piping renewal, propeller hub replacement and rudder system overhaul.

FY2020

Twenty-nine percent of WSF's fleet not in State of Good Repair; annual preservation gap projected to increase

In FY2020, six (29%) of the 21 vessels in the WSF fleet missed the target for State of Good Repair (having fewer than 20% of vessel systems overdue for replacement or rehabilitation). Of the remaining 15 vessels in the fleet, eight (38%) had 10%-20% of systems overdue, and seven (33%) had less than 10% of systems overdue.

WSF's average annual gap between preservation needs and funding for vessel preservation is expected to be $71.6 million per fiscal year for the 10-year period from 2021 to 2030. This is the average amount that the preservation backlog will increase each year assuming aging vessels are not decommissioned and replaced. WSF faces challenges in keeping pace with preservation requirements due to limited capital funding, an insufficient number of spare vessels (to relieve vessels taken out of service for preservation), and a limited number of shipyards available to complete ferry maintenance in the region.

FY2019

WSF develops vessels asset management plan

In FY2019, WSF developed comprehensive Asset Management Plans for its vessels and other assets. The plans, which will be updated once every two years, will be used to prioritize capital investments and to support high-level investment decisions.

A fundamental principle of the vessels asset management plan is State of Good Repair. The plan establishes criteria for assessing the status of each vessel asset and sets a corresponding fleet performance goal of 90% of assets meeting the SOGR metrics.

In accordance with the vessel asset management plan, WSF will publish an annual SOGR report that summarizes the status of each of the 22 vessel assets to inform the following year's capital project list and budget request for operations.

WSF develops a centralized vessel maintenance program

In FY2019, WSF also developed a centrally-managed vessel maintenance program to address challenges created by a rapidly changing workforce. WSF's most senior personnel are retiring at an increasing rate, taking valuable experience with them during a time when maintenance budgets are tight and the demand for vessel reliability is increasing. More than 53% of WSF's Chief Engineers will be eligible for retirement in the next five years.

Under this program, maintenance requirements are standardized by vessel class and progress is monitored through the State of Good Repair metrics in the asset management plan. WSF developed standardized maintenance procedures and crew training programs for the four Olympic Class vessels (the newest in WSF's fleet).

A feedback system is in place to provide opportunities for continuous improvement of the maintenance procedures and training programs. Standardizing these procedures and programs will help ensure WSF retains valuable knowledge that could otherwise be lost due to senior staff retiring.

In the 2019-2021 biennium, WSF is developing similar standardized procedures and training for the vessels in the Issaquah, Kwa-di Tabil and Jumbo Mark II Classes. These investments will help ensure sustained system reliability in the face of a changing workforce.

FY2018

Vessels operational for 82% of FY2018

On average, WSF's vessels were operationally available for 82% of days during FY2018. Of the seven vessel classes, the 188-vehicle Jumbo Class vessels had the lowest average percentage of availability. The average of the two Jumbo Class vessels was about 68% availability for the fiscal year.

In FY2018, the Super Class led all vessel classes with the highest preservation backlog, accounting for $77.1 million of the fleet backlog of $209 million. This class had an average vessel backlog of $19.3 million which was the second highest average vessel backlog among the seven classes. The average vessel percentage of Super Class systems overdue for preservation/renewal (Condition Rating 3) was 21%—highest of the seven classes.

The FY2018 backlog of $77.1 million for the Super Class vessels is higher than the total vessel backlog of $66.2 million in FY2014. The fleet-wide vessel backlog has grown 215% from $66.2 million in FY2014 to $209.0 million in FY2018.

The M/V Tokitae, M/V Samish and M/V Chimacum—three of the four new Olympic Class vessels—were operationally available during FY2018 for 90%, 69% and 97% of the time, respectively. (The M/V Suquamish was not active until October 2018, so operational availability data is not yet available). These new vessels required upgrades in order to meet U.S. Coast Guard specifications. The down time associated with the upgrades negatively impacted operational availability.

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