Talk about kicking a gift horse in the knee. The Mat-Su Borough is turning down an offer of $2 million from an Abu Dhabi shipping company for the borough’s ill-fated ferry, the M/V Susitna, an $80 million Navy prototype-turned-bankbook-breaker.
The borough government for more than a year has been trying to give the ferry away to federal, state or local governments, but no takers. It was supposed to carry up to 130 passengers and 20 cars across the three miles of water separating Port MacKenzie and Anchorage, but there were financial difficulties and no terminals at either end and government was involved, and you know what that means. Now the vessel is an economic albatross sucking up zillions of dollars.
The borough says it will entertain offers of only $6 million or more because that is how much it owes the feds for grants to turn the former Navy catamaran destined for the scrap heap into a never-used passenger vessel and vehicle ferry.
Abu Dhabi Mar LLC, which made the offer, says it has not heard from the borough. It had wanted the ferry for a mobile service platform for patrol boats stationed on far-flung islands in the United Arab Emerates.
The ferry, which has spent most of its life sitting unused in Southeast Alaska, is the world’s first ice-breaking catamaran – and a nice-looking vessel. It was supposed to move tanks and such for the military, but was obtained by the borough through earmarks by the late Sen. Ted Stevens. Mothballing the vessel in Ketchikan costs the Mat-Su something like $70,000 a month. The bill to date? Almost $1.2 million.
Mind you, we know very little about high finance or high-speed prototype boats, but if the ferry was ours, we’d take a bucket of fried chicken and a movie pass to shut off the red ink before taxpayers strung us up.
Someday, years from now, chicken and a movie may seem like a good idea to the borough. In the meantime, perhaps borough officials can park the vessel near one of the state’s never-used grain terminals or fish factories as a growing monument to the proposition that government is not the answer to most problems.