KETCHIKAN — The Alaska Marine Highway System is exploring the sale of the state ferry Taku.
"We are looking into retiring the Taku and divesting of it," said Alaska Department of Transportation spokesman Jeremy Woodrow. "It's not a quick decision."
It's still early in the process, and there's no timeline for a sale, he said, but noted "it's highly likely that will be where we're going as a state."
The state needs to determine whether it would owe any of the cash from a sale to the federal government because of Federal Highway Administration funding used to maintain the vessel.
It costs approximately $3 million per year in crew, insurance and generator fuel to keep the Taku moored at the state-owned south berth at the Ketchikan Shipyard.
The Taku also serves as a "hotel ship" for the system. Employees who are temporarily in Ketchikan stay aboard the vessel rather than in hotel rooms.
Woodrow said the ferry system's plan "has always been to retire a mainline vessel when those (Alaska Class Ferries) come online." The two ferries being constructed at the shipyard will be finished in 2018.
The Taku is one of the three ships built when the AMHS was created in the 1960s. Since then, its fleet has grown to 11 ships.
The vessel isn't scheduled to be replaced. The next state ferry due to be retired is the Tustumena, which sails the Aleutian Chain.
The Tustumena replacement will cost approximately $230 million, according to Woodrow, and will be a federally funded project.
This article originally appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News and is republished here with permission.