State leaders christen the first Olympic class ferry at Vigor

State elected, transportation and manufacturing leaders convened on March 20 to celebrate the christening of the state’s first 144-car Olympic class ferry, the Tokitae, at Vigor Industrial’s shipyard in Seattle.

Lynn Peterson, Washington’s secretary of transportation, served as the ship’s sponsor and broke a bottle to christen the new ferry before a crowd of more than 200 people. Speakers at the ceremony explained that the vessels will ensure safe, reliable ferry service, save taxpayers money and provide jobs for the state’s maritime workforce.

“This is more than just a ferry,” said Frank Foti, CEO of Vigor Industrial, at the christening. “The vessel is a vital economic, social and transportation link to the ferry communities across Puget Sound.”

The 362’x83′, 1,500-passenger Tokitae is the first of three 144-car ferries planned to replace the state’s aging Evergreen State class 87-car ferries, all of which are about 60 years old. The second 144-car ferry, the Samish, is under construction now at Vigor Industrial.

Following sea trials and crew training, the Tokitae will enter service on the Mukilteo-Clinton route in June. The Samish is expected to serve the San Juan Islands beginning early next year.

Washington lawmakers also approved funding for a third 144-car ferry during the recently completed legislative session. The 144-car third ferry, still unnamed, will be built by Vigor and likely serve the Seattle-Bremerton route.

Construction of the Tokitae provided 500 jobs at Vigor and its subcontractors, including Nichols Brothers on Whidbey Island, Jesse Engineering in Tacoma and Eltech Electric and Performance Contracting Group in Seattle. Those 500 jobs comprise about one million hours of work on the Tokitae, said Joe Corvelli, senior vice president of Vigor Fab, the Vigor subsidiary building the ferries.

The head of Washington State Ferries, David Moseley, who this week announced his resignation after six years on the job, said he felt the new vessels represent the completion of one of his goals as the leader of the ferry system.

“With the help of the Legislature and all of the shipyards in Puget Sound, we’ve begun to recapitalize our aging fleet,” Moseley said. “We needed to do that. Probably the top priority I set for myself when I took this job was we need to build new boats. And now we’ve built four vessels, have one more under construction and funding for one more…I’m very pleased with that.”

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