‘Bittersweet for Alaska’: Beloved ferry Taku just sold to a Dubai company

The M/V Taku is seen on a cold day in this undated image. (Rebecca Rauf | Alaska DOT&PF)

The M/V Taku is seen on a cold day in this undated image. (Rebecca Rauf | Alaska DOT&PF)

The state of Alaska has sold the ferry Taku, 55 years after the ship became one of the first in the state’s fleet.

On Friday afternoon, the 352-foot ship was sold for $171,000 to a Dubai-based company that will seek to sell it internationally. If no buyer can be found, the ship will go to a foreign scrapyard.

The decision on the ship’s final resting place is out of the state’s hands: Jamal al Lawz Trading Est. now owns the Taku.

“The sale is bittersweet for Alaska. The Taku is a beloved ship and it’s hard to see her go,” said Captain John Falvey, general manager of the ferry system. “At the same time, we’re glad to have the sale process completed and have earned a good value for the state.”

The Alaska Department of Transportation provided copies of the bill of sale and purchase agreement to the Empire late Friday. According to the documents, signed by both the state and Ben Evans of Jamal al Lawz, the ferry is being sold on site, “as is.” After the ship’s title is transferred to Jamal al Lawz, that company becomes responsible for mooring fees starting Feb. 19.

The ship is expected to leave Ketchikan within a month, said Aurah Landau, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Transportation, in a prepared statement.

The Taku has been in Ketchikan’s Ward Cove since June 2015, when it was taken out of service after the Alaska Legislature slashed the budget of the Alaska Marine Highway System.

With the ferry system unable to afford the ship’s annual recertification, it sat laid up in Ketchikan. (The fast ferry Chenega has since been laid up as well, for the same reason.)

The state needed more than a year to begin the process of selling the ship, but bids were slow. In 2017, the state extended or altered the bidding procedures four times before getting a successful bidder.

Even then, things didn’t go the state’s way. In September, a group of Portland businessmen offered more than $300,000 for the ship and said they intended to turn it into a hotel on the Willamette River waterfront.

The group backed out of its bid, and the state offered the two remaining bidders from September another chance.

Jamal al Lawz, which had been the No. 2 bidder in September, increased its bid and won the rebid process.

According to state-provided figures, almost $500,000 in equipmment was stripped from the Taku before its sale. That equipment included firefighting and lifesaving gear that will be used aboard the two Alaska-class ferries under construction in Ketchikan.

On the same day it announced the sale of the Taku, the Marine Highway announced that it is collecting memories and photographs of the Taku. Anyone interested in sharing their story of sailing aboard the Taku can email their recollection to dot.ask@alaska.gov.

According to requirements of the Federal Highway Administration which has funded some of the Taku’s repairs and upgrades over the years, a percentage of the net receipts from the sale must be used for federally eligible purposes or projects in Alaska.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.

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