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Ferry sale could line port’s pocket

KINGSTON — The Port of Kingston could soon receive additional funding for its passenger-only ferry service from the sale of two Washington State Ferries (WSF).

In the April 2007 Washington legislation directed the state ferry service to get out of the passenger-only ferry service.

According to the Revised Code of Washington, if WSF should sell its passenger-only vessels the money goes into a ferry account to aid private entities in start-up costs of passenger-only services.

Although the sale of WSF’s two passenger-only ferries — the Chinook and the Snohomish — was approved Oct. 16 by the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District in San Francisco, the offer still hinges on a final technical review of the vessels. The amount of the sale of two passenger-only ferries is not yet known, said Hadley Greene, communications manager for Washington State Ferries.

The California district hopes to use the ferries for a route from Marin County to San Francisco, she said.

“We are hopeful that a purchase sale agreement will go through in the next two weeks,” Greene said.

Mike Bookey, manager for the Port of Kingston, said the business plan for their passenger-only ferry service, which they call a water transit service, still waits approval from the governor before any funding exchanges hands.

According to the port’s water transit business plan, it seeks $900,000 from the ferry boat account over the next four years. This money would add to the port’s $3.5 million grant awarded by the Federal Transit Administration.

The grant is intended for capital purchases and will go toward buying two vessels for the Port of Kingston’s Water Transit service, Bookey said. The second boat is wanted for backup.

This summer, the port purchased the ferry terminal “Verlane” used by Aqua Express — the private company that ran a foot ferry service from Kingston to downtown Seattle more than two years ago.

Bookey said they also purchased the existing ramp, which connects the port’s fishing pier and covered holding area to the terminal.

The sale of the two passenger-only ferries isn’t to be confused with the recent sale of all four steel-electric boats to Environmental Recycling Systems on Sept. 19, Hadley said.

The four vessels were sold for $500,000, she said. After recycling the steel, ERS agreed to give WSF 10 percent of the revenue, an estimated $200,000.

“ERS will tow the vessels to the ship recycling facility in Lazaro Cardenas off the coast of Mexico,” she said.

The four boats were posted for sale on eBay in July for a minimum bid of $350,000 per vessel.

The estimate was based on the value of steel but didn’t take into account of fuel or transportation costs once the vessels were sold, Greene said, adding ERS will pay for transportation costs.

According to electricferries.com, the steel electric boats were originally built to serve as ferries in San Francisco before the Golden Gate Bridge was built. Now, coincidentally, the passenger-only ferry boats are heading back instead.

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