WETA fast ferry sold to Kitsap Transit

Solano (Photo: WETA)

Washington State operator Kitsap Transit has purchased a catamaran fast ferry from the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) for approximately US$1 million.

The 38-metre Solano is capable of transporting up to 320 passengers at a speed of 32.5 knots. It was completed in 2004 by Dakota Creek Industries of Anacortes, Washington.

The sale of the ferry was closed following approval by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Kitsap Transit plans to have Solano transported from Mare Island, California, to Bremerton and then to a dry dock in the Puget Sound region for, among other things, re-branding, new upholstery and replacement of worn parts.

Meanwhile, Kitsap Transit will explore the feasibility of modifying the vessel to load passengers via the bow. As a bow-loading vessel, Solano could potentially serve as a spare on Kitsap Transit’s planned Southworth/Seattle route, which is anticipated to launch this year.

Solano entered service in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004, operating on the City of Vallejo’s BayLink service until ferry operations were transitioned to WETA and rebranded as San Francisco Bay Ferry.

Required by the California Air Resources Board to meet stricter air quality standards, WETA concluded it would be more cost-effective to sell Solano than retrofit it.

WETA listed Solano for sale through a broker for more than US$4 million, but the Covid-19 pandemic weakened the market for used ferry vessels. Rather than reimburse the federal government for its interest in Solano, WETA found a mutually beneficial solution in transferring the vessel to Kitsap Transit.

Kitsap Transit hired Seattle-based naval architects Elliott Bay Design Group to examine Solano and deliver a pre-purchase inspection report.

The sale includes spare parts valued at approximately US$2 million.

In addition to paying WETA US$1 million, Kitsap Transit has committed to maintaining Solano for nine more years, the remainder of its useful life under federal rules.

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