KETCHIKAN — A former state ferry has departed from Alaska after serving in the Alaska Marine Highway System since 1963.
The Taku left Ward Cove in southeast Alaska Tuesday morning and is headed for Singapore, the Ketchikan Daily News reported.
The Alaska Department of Transportation transferred ownership of the vessel to Jabal Al Lawz Trading Est., a Dubai-based company, in January.
It was sold for $171,000.
Some people gathered to say goodbye the vessel on Tuesday including Bill and Wynn Hopkin, who both worked aboard the Taku.
Bill Hopkins began working on the ship in 1977 and took on various roles during his time with the ferry system such as chief mate and captain.
He took some photos as the ship left and cried as he saw it getting farther away.
“It’s inevitable — I understand that,” he said. “It’s just a piece of steel that floats, with an engine in it. A ship is a floating engine. But these ships, when you work them, you get a feel of them. They all have a different character. . In that sense, they’re alive to us.”
Wynn Hopkins agrees.
She worked on the ship as a U.S. Forest Service interpretive specialist in 1981. Her job was to inform passengers about southeast Alaska’s cultural and natural resources, she said.
She considers the vessel an old friend.
“They have a real human quality,” she said, referring to AMHS ferries.
The Taku was pulled out of the transportation system in 2015 due to budgetary concerns.
Since purchasing it in January, Jabal al Lawz Trading has been preparing the ferry for its trans-Pacific voyage.
The company is known for buying ships and scrapping them in India, but after spending time on the ship, co-owner Ben Evans thinks it could be sold to be repurposed as a superyacht, an ultra-luxurious yacht.
“So whoever bought it off us would be spending millions on it to upgrade the accommodations and the amenities,” he said.
The trip to Singapore is expected to take about a month, he said.
If the vessel is not sold there, it will continue to India for scrapping.