The Alaska Marine Highway System ferries LeConte, left, Malaspina and Tazlina, hidden from view, are tied up at the Auke Bay Terminal in this July 2019 photo.  CoastAlaska reports Gov. Mike Dunleavy offered to give the Malaspina ferry away in a letter last month to the Philippines consul general in San Francisco. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Alaska offers 58-year-old ferry for free to the Philippines

The state of Alaska is trying to dispose of a 58-year-old ferry.

The state of Alaska is trying to dispose of a 58-year-old ferry, and even has offered to give it free to the government of the Philippines.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy offered to give the Malaspina ferry away in a letter last month to the Philippines consul general in San Francisco, CoastAlaska reported.

“This vessel is surplus to our fleet, is in need of some repairs, but does have some service life left,” according to Dunleavy’s letter dated May 20 and obtained by the Alaska Public Media in a routine public records request for the governor’s correspondence.

“We would be willing to provide the vessel to the Philippine government or to a private ferry company in the Philippines free of charge,” the letter states.

The Malaspina, built in 1963, last sailed in 2019. Instead of paying at least $16 million in needed steel work, the state put the ferry into cold storage.

The state Department of Transportation has estimated it would cost up to $45 million to overhaul the ferry, including installing new engines.

The state is paying about $450,000 a year to keep it in storage, prompting the Dunleavy administration to dispose of it.

“We are actively looking at working with the EPA to scuttle the ship and potentially salvage some of the steel or resale value,” Alaska Marine Highway System General Manager John Falvey told the Alaska House Transportation Committee on March 20.

Falvey said there was only tepid interest in buying the ferry, matching the struggles the state experienced in disposing of three other ferries recently. One went to a scrap yard in India, and two others were sold to a Spanish ferry company.

If the state were to sell the Malaspina, Falvey said at the time it would be put out to sealed bids. But if the ferry is given to another government, procurement rules would not normally apply, said Jason Soza, the state’s top procurement officer from 2013-19. However, he noted that the offer to give the ferry to a private ferry company would normally not be allowed.

Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner said there had been no response from the Philippines consul general in San Francisco and declined further comment.

The Consul General of the Philippines in San Francisco told CoastAlaska its chief diplomat will visit Juneau in July, but as part of the consul general’s normal outreach to Filipino citizens in Alaska. It it not a ferry fact-finding mission, a spokesperson said in an email to the southeast Alaska public radio network.

• This is an Associated Press report.

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