BELLINGHAM - All American Marine has won an $11.8 million contract to design and build two 250-passenger ferries for the King County Ferry District.
All American Marine owner Matt Mullett was not immediately available for additional comment Tuesday, Dec. 24, after King County announced the deal.
In July 2013, Mullett's firm got a $1 million federal grant to help upgrade the equipment on its Fairhaven waterfront site. Mullett said the money would help the company acquire a new crane and other facilities to enable construction of larger vessels.
At that time, the company employed about 50 people.
Paul Brodeur, director of the King County Marine Division, said the two new catamarans will replace two smaller, 25-year-old leased vessels, the Rachel Marie and Melissa Ann. Those two vessels have operated on runs that link Vashon Island and West Seattle to downtown.
The new Bellingham-built vessels will carry 78 more riders apiece than the older boats.
"I am pleased with the selection of All American Marine - a company that brings experience and an excellent reputation for delivering quality passenger-only ferries for customers on both coasts," Brodeur said in a press release.
Construction on the first new ferry is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2014, with completion by spring 2015. The second vessel would be completed four to six months after that, Brodeur said.
Joe McDermott, chairman of the King County Ferry District, said the new vessels will help meet rising demand.
"We continue to see increased ridership, and these new boats will help us meet the demand of King County residents looking for an alternative from single occupancy cars," McDermott said.
The vessels will have wider doors that will help speed boarding and unloading. The vessels also will increase bicycle capacity from 18 to 26 and offer greater comfort for passengers, according to a King County press release.
About 80 percent of the cost is being funded by the Federal Transit Administration.
All American Marine, founded by Pat Pitsch, started out building small fishing vessels in 1987. In later years, the company began to specialize in double-hulled designs that met the needs of public ferry agencies, scientific researchers and private excursion operators.
Mullett, who joined the firm as CEO in 1999, became sole owner in January 2013.