SEATTLE – A sparkling white and green Washington state ferry was the center of attention Jan. 4 at Vigor’s Harbor Island Shipyard in Seattle as the state Department of Transportation christened Suquamish, the fleet’s fourth Olympic Class vessel.
In a traditional maritime ceremony, state Assistant Transportation Secretary Amy Scarton broke a bottle of champagne to officially welcome the newest ferry to the fleet. Gov. Jay Inslee, along with Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman, state Sen. Sharon Nelson, Transportation Secretary Roger Millar, and Vigor CEO Frank Foti spoke during the event. Members of the Suquamish Tribe offered a traditional song and blessing.
The christening marks the Suquamish’s final stage of construction and its preparation for sea trials.
“Our marine highways are an irreplaceable part of our state’s transportation system, with ferries carrying over 24 million people each year across our state’s waters,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “It is critical for us to continue replacing our oldest ferries and I am proud to celebrate the Suquamish and the Washingtonians who built it.”
Millar said, “Suquamish joins the 22-boat fleet that serves the customers and communities of our state’s integrated, multimodal transportation system. The addition of a new boat helps us continue planning for the state’s transportation future.”
Scarton said, “This construction milestone is an incredible accomplishment for our design and construction teams at ferries. I am honored to christen our new ferry and I can’t wait for our customers to ride Suquamish next year.”
Foti added, “The state’s wise decision to build these four Olympic Class ferries in succession resulted in cost reductions and quality improvements in each successive build. Vigor and the skilled men and women who built these ferries are honored to partner with Washington State Ferries and we commend the Legislature for its critical investments in marine transportation for the state’s citizens.”
The 144-car Suquamish will begin its sea trials in mid-2018 and will start carrying passengers beginning in the fall. The new ferry will operate on the Mukilteo/Clinton route in the summer and serve as a maintenance relief vessel in the winter, filling in when other vessels are out of service.
The state Transportation Commission selected the vessel name in 2016 to honor the Suquamish people, a Tribe that has inhabited the central Puget Sound for approximately 10,000 years. The Suquamish name translates into the “people of the clear salt water” in the Southern Salish Lushootseed language.
Suquamish is the fourth funded Olympic Class ferry to replace the aging, midcentury-era Evergreen State Class vessels. The first Olympic Class vessel, Tokitae, joined the Mukilteo/Clinton route in June 2014. The second, Samish, began service on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands route in June 2015. Chimacum, the third vessel in the class, entered service on the Seattle/Bremerton route in June 2017.