Opinion

Building ferries locally makes sense for the state

This past session the policy to support local jobs by building our new ferries locally (SB 6794) passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The Legislature passed the law because we’ve taken a long-term approach to filling our new ferry needs while supporting local jobs, rather than outsourcing them.

Currently we need six new vessels, and in the next 36 years, we’ll need to replace 18 of the 21 active vessels.

Washington State Ferries (WSF) wisely turned down the single bid they received to build the Steilacoom II-type vessel for the Port Townsend-Keystone route that came in too high.

The new management at WSF is committed to reexamining the requirements contained in the original bid to see if we can increase efficiencies and save taxpayer dollars.

This demonstrates that the system is working. Accountability measures are having a measurable effect already.

With new oversight measures and a stronger commitment to cutting out past inefficiencies, we won’t accept any bid — we’ll accept only the right bid.

We can get the ferries we need and have them built in Washington for the right price.

Washington’s shipyards can deliver that.

Washington has an excellent shipbuilding industry that supports thousands of working families across the state. It needs to grow if we’re to meet our long-term needs.

The yards involved in the 144 consortium — Todd, Nichols and Martinac — already build for customers outside the state.

Indeed, their success explains the massive workload they’re experiencing in the construction of new ferries; the yards have other customers and they are very busy helping us through this period of intensive maintenance and dry-docking of our existing ferry fleet.

Building these ships closer to home means we’ll have greater oversight to ensure a quality product. We’ll also save in future maintenance costs by building the new boats right here in the same yards where they will be maintained over their long lives of service.

Recently, we saw the public outcry over the loss of good-paying aeronautical construction jobs when Boeing lost the tanker deal to a French airplane company.

We don’t want to see another hit to our economy repeated in the shipbuilding industry.

It’s wrong to ship millions of dollars to out-of-state or overseas shipyards.

Outsourcing these jobs is short-term thinking. The projected savings realized by outsourcing these ferry construction projects would be negligible at best, and don’t take into account the loss of family-wage jobs and the job multiplier effect that our state’s economy would suffer.

As Democrats, we are firmly committed to helping this industry and these tens of thousands of skilled workers thrive right here in Washington State. Especially during tough economic times, Washington tax dollars should be invested in Washington.

State Rep. Judy Clibborn

(D-Bellevue) represents Washington’s

41st Legislative District and chairs the

House Transportation Committee.

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