Fast ferries faulty, Alaska AG claims

Nick Rees Mar. 30, 2010, 2:20am


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Legal Newsline) - Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan has filed a lawsuit against the contractor responsible for the design and construction of Fairweather's and Chenega's ferries.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Alaska Marine Highway System, names Robert E. Derecktor, Inc., the contractor responsible for the ferries' design and construction. Also named are MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH and MTU Detroit Diesel, Inc., the companies responsible for the propulsion systems in the vessels.

"We're protecting the fiscal integrity of the state," Sullivan said. "We received a faulty product, and we intend to see that the citizens and taxpayers of Alaska are appropriately compensated."

The engines provided by MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH, a German manufacturer, and MTU Detroit Diesel Inc., its subsidiary, have caused numerous problems -- including engine blocks that degrade, cracked cylinder liners, damaged reduction gear units, excessive propulsion system variation and prematurely spent components -- Sullivan claims.

One of the vessels, the Fairweather, suffered hairline cracks of all four of its diesel engines' steel sleeves in 2006, a typical problem of the vessels, the suit claims.

The state accepted delivery of the fast ferries, which are aluminum-hulled catamaran-style ferries capable of carrying up to 30 vehicles and 250 passengers while traveling at up to 40 miles per hour, in 2004 and 2005. The ships have been plagued with problems ever since, incurring several hundred thousand dollars of repair costs as they struggle to cope with heavy seas, the suit claims.

MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH no longer produces the model of engine installed in the Alaskan fast ferries. The state's suit says that the company has failed to maintain a necessary supply of replacement parts, which is required by contract.

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