Bellingham boat builder begins work on two passenger ferries

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 26, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - A local waterfront boat builder is about to begin a major project that is expected to bring improved passenger ferry service to King County.

All American Marine hosted a ceremony on Friday, April 25, to kick off construction work on two aluminum passenger ferries for the King County Ferry District. Each boat will be about 105 feet long and carry up to 250 passengers. Each boat represents about 37,000 worker hours; the first is expected to be delivered in February 2015, while the second is scheduled for a September 2015 delivery.

The $11.8 million contract was awarded to All American Marine in December.

This project represents a new step forward for the Fairhaven company: It's the longest passenger ferry built by the company, and it will incorporate some of the low-wake, environmentally friendly designs from previous work, said Matt Mullett, owner of the company.

"We believe there is pent-up demand for the larger passenger ferries," Mullett said.

Paul Brodeur, director of the King County marine division, said the two new catamarans will replace two smaller, older leased vessels. He said they are looking forward to the increased reliability, improved passenger comfort and the low-wake capabilities the new ferries will provide.

The wake won't present as much an issue as the Kitsap passenger ferry project, which required All American to create a boat with a low wake as it traveled through the environmentally sensitive Rich Passage. With this design, the ferry should be a smooth ride even on the windy days around Vashon Island and West Seattle.

As a result of this project and others, All American Marine is making plans to expand. It is currently working with the Port of Bellingham and the city to add another 15,000 square feet of manufacturing space. It currently has 20,000 square feet of space. Mullett said they also want to add 25 employees in the next three years, increasing the total company workforce to 70.

Port Executive Director Rob Fix said the marine trades in this region is as strong as he's seen it, given the work being done in the shipyards and the expected busy fishing season this year.

"Things look very bright right now," Fix said.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Business Blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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