Washington State's Newest Ferry Makes Its Inaugural Voyage Overland

The Sanpoil ferry moves to Eastern Washington for final assembly

By MarEx 2013-04-16 11:24:00

Eleven prefabricated vessel modules were successfully transported overland from Foss Maritime's Rainier Shipyard in Rainier, Ore. to an assembly yard in Grand Coulee, Wa.

Partnering with Washington state and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Foss recently completed fabrication of the hull modules as well as preliminary outfitting and systems for the state's newest ferry, the Sanpoil, at its Rainier shipyard.

Built to replace the six-car ferry, the Martha S. - which has covered the route across the Columbia River north of Wilbur for the past 64 years - the state-of-the-art Sanpoil will be highly efficient, with reduced air emissions and standardized equipment, and will require less maintenance.

"This has been a historic project for Foss, as the Sanpoil represents the largest aluminum hull to be fabricated at our Rainier yard," said Gary Faber, president and COO of Foss.

Transporting the very large modules took careful planning. The largest of the sections, the central hull, is 116 feet long, 22.5 feet wide and 16 feet tall. The 161,000 pound section made the approximately 500 mile journey in five days, mounted on eight eight-wheeled dollies, towed by a tractor traveling no more that 25 miles per hour.

Foss partnered with Portland, Ore. based Omega Moran to scout the entire route ahead of time, using an apparatus to match the height of the largest load. Once the Oregon Department of Transportation verified that the hull could fit through the Tooth Rock Tunnel on I-84 in Cascade Locks, Ore., the rig made the first two legs of the trip at night for minimum traffic. It traveled through north Portland, making its way through an array of overhead wires, traffic lights and tree branches.

The remaining 10 pieces of the Sanpoil, which are smaller than the central hull, made the trip in nine tows, each lasting one-day. They include the side sections and four corners of the hull, two deck houses, the cross-over assembly and the pilothouse.

Don Nugent, the Foss Rainier Shipyard superintendent, said when the center-hull section was shipped, engines, generators and control panels had already been installed. The pilothouse, which will ship in early April, has also been completely outfitted. The eleven hull modules were clipped together to ensure a proper fit before transportation to the assembly site began.

Rainier Superintendent Tony Silva supervised preparation of the assembly yard, which is on National Park land. Foss worked with the National Parks Service in deciding on the exact location and acquiring the necessary permits. The yard includes several temporary buildings, which are placed on a thick concrete slab that will remain for use by the National Parks after the ferry assembly.  

Foss also worked with the Bureau of Reclamation Fire Department, who have become familiar with the location and will conduct confined spaces trainings for their officers on the ferry. The vessel's construction offers the Bureau a unique opportunity for such trainings and in turn the Bureau has created a detailed fire plan for the site and a catalog of all flammable materials.

The new Sanpoil ferry will be launched at Crescent Bay, where it will undergo final testing and trials before being placed into service on this vital cross-Columbia River transportation link.

"Foss has been in the Northwest for well over a century. This project has provided us the opportunity to partner again with the state and to establish very successful partnerships with the Confederated Tribes, the National Parks and the Bureau of Reclamation Fire Department," said Faber.

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