Designers: Cover shuttle ferry car deck

An early drawing compares the proposed Alaska Class Shuttle Ferry with other ships. Image courtesy Department of Transportation.

Naval architects working on the new shuttle ferry recommend against uncovered car decks. 

Marine highway officials earlier said a partially open deck could save construction and operational costs.

But Project Engineer Will Nickum said it’s not the best option.

“The general recommendation we have is that it should be closed. That that would be the better approach long-term,” he said.

He said a closed deck would boost the comfort level and protect equipment. But it would increase construction costs by 1.5 percent.

Nickum, of Seattle’s Elliot Bay Design Group, spoke at this month’s Marine Transportation Advisory Board meeting.

Plans call for two shuttle ships sailing between Juneau, Haines and Skagway. They’re the latest approach to what’s called the Alaska-Class Ferry. (Read about plans for the shuttle ferry.)

Nickum said the shuttles’ target length is now 280 feet. That’s 20 percent longer than the small ferry LeConte.

“Comfort needs to be better than the LeConte-class vessels and approach that of the Taku. That is a serious requirement and we have to look at length to make sure we can meet that particular thing,” he said.

Comfort refers to the ride, especially in high winds and seas.

Designers continue to work with some earlier assumptions.

The ferries will not have staterooms or crew cabins. Food service will be limited. And they will be easily maneuverable for quick loading and unloading.

But there will be a few amenities.

“We think it makes sense to have a family and children space. We’d have a work space or quiet room. That would be the library space. We’d also have the traditional forward observation lounge,” he said.

And that space may be on a level above the main passenger deck.

Nickum said the shuttles will also have a small theater, similar to some other ferries.

A draft report on vessel plans will be out for public review on June 13th.

Marine Transportation Advisory Board member Cathie Roemmich of Juneau expects some battles.

“You have a handful of people in a couple communities that are just going to give you negativity. They don’t like it and they don’t want it. I hope the public process is very swift and you guys can move on with the job,” she said.

Advisory board members also asked about a proposed bow-door system. And some worried whether the ships would be compatible with ramps and docks outside Lynn Canal.

Former board chairman Dave Kensinger of Petersburg urged designers to consider staffing as well as construction.

“I think the most important thing you do on whatever else you build is you make for sure it’s as cheap as possible to operate,” he said. “We did an exercise quite a few years ago and if you look at the life-cycle cost of one crewmember on one boat, it’s astounding.”

Designers are working on the assumption that the first vessel will be completed by mid-2016.

Read earlier reports:

Significant wave height charts, courtesy Glosten Associates/Alaska DOT: 

A chart showing Lynn Canal-area waves in strong north winds, measured in meters, in the worst weather month.


A chart showing Lynn Canal-area waves in strong south winds, measured in meters, in the worst weather month.

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