ANCHORAGE - After efforts to sell the Susitna, an expeditionary craft ferry built by Alaska Ship & Drydock in cooperation with the U.S. Navy but without an operator, have failed, there is some speculation the borough of Mat-Su, which owns the ship, may simply give the vessel to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory in the Pacific. While Mat-Su owns the vessel outright, just maintaining the ferry costs some $90,000 a month, according to an article in the Olympian.
Of course, the islands (Guam, Rota and Siapan), which would use the ferry to move both passengers and cargo, would have little use for the the Susitna's ice-breaking capabilities, and it's the extra weight of the ice-breaking abilities that may ultimately make the vessel less than ideal for Mariana. Officials on both sides continue to exchange information.
Should this deal fall through, there is talk of dry-docking the ferry to save money.
One other mitigating factor is that if the ferry is not used for passenger transportation, Mat-Su would have to give back some $12 million in grant money that helped fund the building of the vessel and a passenger terminal that has never actually hosted the Susitna. The Marianas would satisfy the conditions of the grants, but Mat-Su might have to return the money for the ferry terminal, some $4.5 million.