Opinion

Article was unfair in comparing new ferry to old

I was disappointed to read the recent article in your paper titled “Questions Plague Vashon’s Newest Ferry.” Simply put, comparing the Chetzemoka to the Rhododendron, as the article does, is not appropriate and is inherently misleading.

As I explained during my interview, the two vessels vary greatly when considering capacity, engines, age, performance and crew requirements. The 1947-era Rhododendron was the oldest vessel in the fleet. Despite our exceptional maintenance record, it had reached the threshold of its useful life, just as the Steel Electric vessels did. We are extremely fortunate to have built new vessels so we can assign the new, larger capacity Chetzemoka to this route.

The article suggests that the Rhody was almost as large as the Chetzemoka. This is incorrect. The Rhody was last rated to carry 48 vehicles with a car deck of approximately 9,900 square feet, and the Chetzemoka is rated to carry 64 cars with approximately 13,400 square feet of car deck space. If you compare ridership on the route between the Chetzemoka and Rhody, you will see an upswing in the last year. From Jan. 24, 2012, through the end of September 2012, ridership on the route was up 1.9 percent, vehicles were up 2.3 percent, and, most significantly, large commercial vehicles were up 103 percent.

The article also discusses fuel consumption and suggests that because the Chetzemoka burns more fuel than the Rhody, our customers may have to pay higher fares because of the higher fuel usage. This is incorrect. The Chetzemoka is performing below the budgeted estimate of 75 gallons per hour at approximately 67 gallons per hour. A proper comparison would be the Island Home in Massachusetts, which has the same propulsion system, yet consumes 128 gallons per hour. Even with fuel on the Chetzemoka consumed at a rate lower than the original budget estimate, we are still actively looking at ways to reduce consumption — as we do for all vessels on all routes.

The Chetzemoka is operating very well on the route. This is evidenced by the fact that the Chetzemoka has made 9,874 trips between Jan. 24, 2012, when it began service on the Point Defiance/Tahlequah route, and Oct. 10 this year, with only 39 sailings lost due to mechanical issues. We believe the Chetzemoka is an excellent vessel that will continue to provide great service to WSF and our customers for years to come.

Finally, it is worth noting that the Chetzemoka, Salish and Kennewick were named Significant Boats of 2011 by WorkBoat Magazine, a national maritime publication.

I am sensitive to the cost that our customers bear to use the ferry system; however, we are in an environment of escalating costs and a lack of sustainable funding for the ferry system that we depend on and love. I am hopeful that this coming legislative session will deal with the financial challenges facing the ferry system and transportation as a whole in Washington.

 

—David Moseley is the head of Washington State Ferries.

 

 

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