Knik Arm ferry

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M/V Susitna being outfitted in Ketchikan for delivery to Anchorage.

Knik Arm ferry or Cook Inlet ferry, was a proposed year-round passenger and auto ferry across Knik Arm between Anchorage and Point MacKenzie in Alaska. The project was to use the M/V Susitna SWATH / barge convertible expedition craft, which was built for US$80,000,000, to connect Alaska's financial center with the fastest growing community in Alaska, just two miles across water. No ferry landings were ever built, and the ship was never put into commission. Eventually, the Borough offered to either transfer the ferry for free to government entities in the U.S. in January 2013 or to sell the ship to a commercial interest. Sealed bids were taken through March 29, 2013.[1][2] but the ship was not actually sold until 2016, for substantially below the cost of building it.

M/V Susitna[edit]

The ferry is a one-of-a-kind, ice-capable vessel that can transition from barge to twin-hulled ship, designed by Guido, Perla & Associates based on a concept by Lockheed-Martin Corporation for the Office of Naval Research as a half-sized prototype for a military vessel.[3]

"It's an omnivore. It's not optimized for any one task, but it has a wide range of tasks it can do, and that's what makes it useful. It can work in deep seas, it can work in rough waters, it can break ice, it can work in shallow waters and go up to the beach. There's no other ship in the world that can do that."

— Lew Madden, Susitna Co-inventor[4]

Susitna was built by Alaska Ship and Drydock, Inc., in Ketchikan. Design and construction costs were funded by the United States Navy Office of Naval Research to study the technology for its potential as a new type of expeditionary landing craft, also called an "E-craft".[5] Basic construction of the ferry was completed and she was christened M/V Susitna in June 2010, but it was never put into service.[6]

The vessel is 59 metres (194 ft) long and has a capacity is 129 passengers and 20 automobiles. Her design incorporates lift technology that allows changing from the Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull (SWATH) mode to barge mode by lowering or raising her center deck.[3] She is the world's first ice capable twin hulled vessel; and the world's first ship able to convert between a high-speed SWATH hull to a shallow barge-type.


A ferry in the area was proposed as early as 1999.[7] Susitna was a project of Senator Ted Stevens, who helped secure numerous earmarks though Defense Department budgets to pay for the ship. Rather than toss the ship in a scrap heap as all other prototypes were, the ship was to be put to work as both a ferry for taxpayers, and as a research vessel for the U.S. Navy. The navy would gather information via the 1,000 sensors on board to learn how the stresses of ice affect the ship, helping the navy construct an improved landing craft for icy seas.

As of February 2013, the ferry was still docked at Ward Cove in Ketchikan,[8] hundreds of miles from Knik Arm. In 2008 then mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage Mark Begich terminated the 2002 agreement with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, who then bore sole responsibility for the project. Several landing sites were proposed, and each time there were objections. One site could possibly interfere with the endangered Beluga whale population in Cook Inlet. Another was deemed too close to the oil "tank farm" at the Port of Anchorage and was rejected out of security concerns. A third site was objected to by commercial fishermen who feared it would interfere with their operations. Another site was rejected because the ferry required additional clearance. The borough favored a site at Ship Creek, an industrial area already used for offshore docking of tugboats, however, offloading of vehicles requires a ferry landing. No landings were ever built.[4][9]

In August 2011 the borough government was informed they were expected to take possession of the ship within a month, and that they were required to provide berthing fees and other expenses even though the vessel was not in service, an estimated annual cost of 1.3 million dollars. Concerned with taxpayers paying for operations costs on a ship that has no revenue, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly agreed to either transfer the vessel to any U.S. government entity or sell it to a commercial interest. They were informed that if they sold it outright they would need to return Federal grant funds used for its construction. The amount is uncertain.[10] Or If the borough transferred the ship to another government entity, the financial obligation could have been reduced.

In January 2012, the Alaska Marine Highway rejected a proposal that they utilize the ship as it is not compatible with their existing facilities or training. A proposal to lease the vessel to the Coast Guard was rejected by that agency on similar grounds.[11] The unused vessel was listed for sale in September 2012.[12]

In May 2013, the borough agreed to sell the vessel to a private company for $6 million, a small fraction of its worth but enough to cover their obligations related to it. However the buyers did not remit a promised down payment on schedule.[13]

In September 2015, a deal was in place with the Philippine Red Cross to buy the ferry. The arrangement required that the ship first be repaired as three of its four engines were damaged by neglect and exposure during the time it had been stored without being used. [14]

In December 2016, M/V Susitna finally arrived at Subic Bay in the Philippines for turnover to the PRC which purchased the vessel for $1.75 million from Matanuska-Susitna Borough [15]


  1. ^ "13-090S, Sale of the M/V Susitna". Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  2. ^ "Mat-Su Borough offers star-crossed M/V Susitna ferry for free". Alaska Dispatch. January 30, 2013.
  3. ^ a b "MV SUSITNA (E-CRAFT)".
  4. ^ a b "The M/V Susitna". Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Archived from the original on 2012-08-05. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  5. ^ Knik Arm ferry will be first of its kindAPRN (audio file)
  6. ^ Former Anchorage mayor hypes railroad line to Port MacKenzie Lisa Demer, Anchorage Daily News, 6/4/2010
  7. ^ ""Knik Arm Ferry" search". Anchorage Daily News. Archived from the original on 2013-02-02.
  8. ^ "The M/V Susitna". September 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-11-02. Retrieved 2013-02-01.
  9. ^ Mat-Su ferry: two ports, zero landings Lisa Deemer, Anchorage Daily News, 5-8-2011
  10. ^ Mat-Su's would-be ferry comes with big bills but no income Lisa Deemer, Anchorage Daily News, 9/1/11
  11. ^ Hollander, Zaz, Ferry could become costly boondoggle Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, 1/2/2012
  12. ^ Marcom M/V Susitna
  13. ^ Wellner, Andrew Deal for M/V Susitna ferry on verge of collapse Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, 5/16/2013
  14. ^ Lockyear, Ellen Smooth Sailing for Susitna so farKSKA/Alaska News Nightly, 9/16/2015
  15. ^

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