The Steamship Authority board — somewhat reluctantly — authorized an additional $461,314 to make necessary repairs to the steel on the MV Katama, a vessel they plan to replace as early as next summer.
The Katama is in dry dock at Thames Shipyard in Connecticut, where it was already undergoing $1.1 million in repairs. However, once the vessel was pulled from the water, it was determined that even more steel needed to be replaced, Mark Amundsen, director of marine operations for the SSA, told the board.
In a 4-0 vote (Vineyard representative James Malkin was absent) Wednesday, the board authorized the $461,314, but not before they asked if the project could be scrapped and the SSA could adjust its schedule until two vessels recently purchased by the SSA could be retrofitted and brought online.
“Is it worth it?” board chair Moira Tierney, who represents New Bedford, asked.
“At this point we’re committed. We would not be able to remove [the Katama] from the dry dock,” Amundsen said. Because the steel has been removed, the vessel can’t just be scrapped. Besides, about $100,000 of the change order has been spent on removing concrete that exposed the additional steel that needs to be replaced, Amundsen said.
“We never anticipated that amount of steel,” he said. “There is no way to gauge it unless we removed the concrete.”
Falmouth board member Peter Jeffrey appeared, like Tierney, ready to scrap the vessel instead of spending more than $1.5 million on a boat that is a short-timer for the SSA. The SSA board authorized spending $11.3 million on two vessels used as offshore supply vessels from Hornbeck Offshore to become freight ferries to replace the Katama and Gay Head ferries. The overall project to retrofit the vessels is in excess of $30 million.
General manager Robert Davis said the Katama is very much part of the SSA’s plans for scheduling, and as a backup until the other vessels are brought into service. Davis said a certificate of inspection is needed if the SSA is going to get anything in return for the Katama and the Gay Head, which it also intends to stop using.
Tierney pressed Davis on what the vessel might bring as a scrap.
“Probably not enough to pay for this work, to be honest with you,” Davis responded, though he added that he has not explored a price for scrapping the Katama.
Amundsen further explained that the steel would have to be put back on the ferry for it to be floated away from the dry dock. In essence, the SSA would have to spend money just to junk it.
Upon hearing the explanation, Jeffrey’s position changed, as he noted the $100,000 for the concrete removal has already been done. “Basically we’re in for $100,000 for the change order,” he said. “We’re authorizing $300,000 so we don’t lose $1.1 million to have a scrap. That simplifies the decision for me.”
Robert Jones, Barnstable’s representative, said the SSA needs to make the repairs. “I can’t see the logic in just forgoing this expense,” he said. “The boat should be kept in a ready position. We may need it at some time unexpectedly.”
The Gay Head, which had one of those unexpected repairs needed earlier this summer, is scheduled for dry dock repairs next June, Davis told the board.
“Hopefully we can get one of the Lode Star’s ready so we don’t have another surprise like this one,” Jeffrey said of one of the two vessels that has been purchased.