Elwha still in disrepair for the fourth time this year

The Elwha Washington state ferry, servicing routes from San Juan Island to Anacortes, was out of commission again this past week, causing route cancellations and delayed ferry times.

The ferry had issues with propulsion controls on the morning of Dec. 28, and was replaced by the Hyak on Dec. 30 while repairs were underway. This is the fourth time this year the ferry has been out of service, including a four month absence over the summer from July toNovember while repairs were made to the drive motor.

According to WSF spokesperson Brian Mannion, the last three times it went out of service was for the same problem, propulsion control, andWSF staff is now taking the issue up with the parts manufacturer. It was repaired the same day Nov. 15 and Nov. 18, and this time it’s expected to be out of service until at least Jan. 8

“The goal right now is to permanently resolve the issue,” Mannion said about the Elwha repairs. “There are no plans to replace it, we keep on top of service and repair to hit that 60 year service mark.”

Mannion said the Elwha was made in 1967, and they usually expect to get about 60 years of use out of state ferries, which would put the Elwha’s retirement in 2027.

It’s one of two vessels on the San Juan Island-Anacortes route that has the equipment required to do international service to Sidney B.C.,required under the Safety of Life at Sea Conventions.

Washington State Ferries staff announced Dec. 28 that they are beginning building the fourth new Olympic Class 144-car ferry in January2016 to begin service in 2018. The yet-to-be-named ferry will cost $122 million and be built by Vigor Industrial in Washington state. It is the last of four new Olympic Class ferries built for various ferry routes in Washington state with a budget totalling $515.5 million.

The second of those Olympic Class ferries was the Samish, that began construction in December 2012 and came into service for the SanJuan Islands in June of this year. Chimicum, the third ferry, is scheduled for completion in early 2017.