Business/Economy

Old Alaska ferry Malaspina sold in bid to keep it out of the scrapyard

KETCHIKAN — The state of Alaska has sold the ferry Malaspina to a business group in a deal aimed at giving the ship a new life and preventing it from being scrapped.

The Malaspina, built in 1963, was one of the original ferries in the state’s fleet. It was moored in late 2019 after the transportation department said the vessel would no longer sail for the Alaska Marine Highway System because of its age and the cost of needed repairs.

Businessmen John Binkley and David Spokely on Wednesday signed paperwork to buy the ship for $128,250, the Ketchikan Daily News reported.

Binkley is president of the M/V Malaspina LLC, a subsidiary of the Spokely and Binkley families’ joint business entity, the Ward Cove Dock Group LLC. The purchase was made by the subsidiary.

John Falvey, the ferry system’s general manager, in a statement said the transportation department “didn’t want just any future for the Malaspina, and we certainly did not want her sold for scrap metal. This gives her a retirement we can be proud of.”

Binkley, in a letter of intent to purchase the vessel, said the hope is to create a museum on the ferry to showcase the history of the ferry system. He said in March that his partners would plan to explore ways that the ferry could be used by students working toward maritime careers.

Binkley, in an email to The Associated Press on Friday, called the Malaspina “a beautiful ship and we feel privileged to be the caretaker for the next chapter in her storied life.”

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He said the ferry fits in with the broader development he and his partners have been involved with in the area where the Malaspina is located, including construction of a cruise ship dock and refurbishment of an old pulp mill.

Earlier this year, the state opened a bidding process for the ferry’s sale.

Applicants were asked to submit, among other things, “documentation demonstrating that you are technically and financially capable of relocating, refurbishing, operating and maintaining the vessel,” and “any considerations to preserve the vessel’s historical value and positively promote the Alaska Marine Highway System.”

The state limited the request to “U.S. buyers that intend to retain the ship in Alaska,” and said “letters of interest that propose scuttling the vessel are not being considered at this time.”

The Malaspina is the fifth ferry system vessel sold by the state over the past 20 years.

The state in 2018 sold the ferry Taku to a Dubai-based company for about $170,000. The company ultimately had it dismantled for scrap metal.

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