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Rudders on new WA ferries have worn out prematurely

The Chetzemoka was placed in the water for the first time on March 2, 2010 in Seattle.
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)
The Chetzemoka was placed in the water for the first time on March 2, 2010 in Seattle.

When you sink millions of dollars into a brand-new Washington state ferryboat, you hope it'll stay in good working order for years.

According to Washington State Ferries, that's not the case with some of the newer vessels serving Whidbey and Vashon Islands.

Ferries spokesman Ian Sterling says the Salish and Kennewick have had to undergo repairs for the same reason – worn-out parts.

“It's a high-tech rudder,” Sterling says. “They're actually designed in Germany. And that's who we're working with to find out why these parts are wearing apparently prematurely.”

Those two vessels, and a third boat, the Chetzemoka are all the same type.

They're known for navigating tricky island harbors. It cost taxpayers more than $200 million dollars to build them.

Ferry officials took the Chetzemoka out of service Thursday, to check to see if its rudder had the same problem.

Divers say it did not, so it was returned to the Point Defiance – Talequah run.

The vessels were built by Vigor Shipyards in Washington. The company confirms the problem is most likely with Becker Marine Systems, the German rudder manufacturer.

The ferries that needed repairs serve the Port Townsend-Keystone run.

The Salish is back in service, but the Kennewick won't be fixed until mid-July. Sterling says a replacement vessel should be on that run by the weekend.