February 20, 2018

Washburn & Doughty wins bid to build $8.8 million state ferry

Photo / Laurie Schreiber
Photo / Laurie Schreiber
Washburn & Doughty, an East Boothbay shipbuilder, has been awarded an $8.8 million contract to build a new Maine State Ferry Service vessel for the state.

An East Boothbay shipbuilder said it will add at least 10 to 20 jobs as the result of a state ferry contract awarded last week.

The Maine Department of Transportation sent a notice of intent to award an $8.8 million contract for the construction of a new Maine State Ferry Service vessel to boatbuilder Washburn & Doughty. The company was one of five bidders — and the only Maine boatbuilder — that submitted a proposal, according to an MDOT press release.

It will be Washburn & Doughty's first ferry project in two decades, but is very much in line with other projects it does, Katie Doughty Maddox, vice president of sales and marketing for the shipbuilder, told Mainebiz.

"The bread and butter of our shipyard for a number of years now has been construction of our Z-drive designs," a feature that allows vessels like ferries to maneuver in tight harbors, Maddox said. "So this project is exciting for us, in that we'll be diversifying our business again. We're looking forward to working with the state again."

Washburn & Doughty has built three other ferries for the state: the Capt. Neal Burgess in 1992, and the Capt. Charles Philbrook and Capt. Henry Lee in 1993. All three carry vehicles and 250 passengers. Known as the "sister ships," they remain in service for the Maine State Ferry Service today.

Other ferries constructed by the yard include the Maquoit II, a passenger ferry built in 1994 for service out of Portland; the Emerald Isle, a car-and-passenger ferry built in 1997 for service out of Beaver Island, Mich.; and a truck ferry built in 1997 for service out of Peaks Island.

"We're always proud when we're on the water and we see our ferries," said Maddox.

Among other notable vessels built by the yard is the M/V Sunbeam V, built for the Maine Sea Coast Mission in Bar Harbor in 1995.

Contract provides work into 2020

Washburn & Doughty delivered its first Z-drive tug, named Fort Bragg, to Cape Fear Towing in North Carolina in 1999. Since then, it's built more than 50 Z-drive tugs. A Z-drive is an azimuth thruster — a configuration of marine propellers that can be rotated to any horizontal angle, making a conventional rudder unnecessary. Four 93-foot Z-drive tugboats are currently on the construction line.

The yard expects to sign the MDOT contract within 60 days, with the job to begin immediately thereafter. Completion is expected within 540 days, which takes the job into 2020.

The yard currently employs about 100 workers, and it's expected the ferry contract will create more jobs, Maddox said.

"At the construction peak, we will have approximately 50 people working on the ferry on a given day, plus an additional 10 people on site via subcontracts" — like joiner work, insulation and ventilation subcontractors, security systems and more. "It is safe to say that this project will require us to add between 10 to 20 jobs."

The shipyard plans to keep its subcontracts local, she added.

According to the DOT release, the new 154-foot vehicular and passenger ferry was designed by Gilbert Associates Inc., a naval architecture and marine engineering firm in Braintree, Mass. Designed to be able to serve any of the island communities other than Matinicus, it will have three main deck lanes, for a capacity of 23 cars or a mix of cars and trucks, as well as 250 passengers.

Founded in East Boothbay in 1977, Washburn & Doughty specializes in the construction of steel and aluminum commercial vessels, including tugboats, commercial passenger vessels, fishing boats, barges, ferries and research vessels.

The Maine State Ferry Service, a division of MDOT, serves the island communities of Vinalhaven, North Haven, Islesboro, Swans Island, Frenchboro and Matinicus. Maine law provides that operating expenses for the ferry service are paid one-half by residents of Maine through the Highway Fund Budget and one-half by user and other fees.

Capital costs for the ferry service — including the construction of ferry boats, maintenance and upgrade to facilities and improvements to supporting infrastructure — is fully funded through MDOT. The funding for the construction of the new ferry boat to be built by Washburn & Doughty will come from a combination of Maine bond funding and other local highway fund and federal dollars.

"We're excited about the project," said Maddox. "We're proud to be involved with the state, and we're proud we have the workforce to complete this project."


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