$80 million boat gets $751,000 bid

March 31, 2013 at 2:07 AM
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PALMER, Alaska, March 31 (UPI) -- An Alaska borough has found itself saddled with an $80 million boat it can't afford to keep and which attracted only a single bid of $751,000, officials say.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough, where Wasilla is the largest town with its 7,800 residents, got the pricey boat, named the Susitna, in 2011 through a partnership with the U.S. Navy. The local government had visions of using it as a ferry boat between Anchorage and Port MacKenzie while the Navy had in mind a fast landing craft, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The money to build it came mostly from the Defense Department thanks to earmarks inserted in the federal budget by then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who died in a 2010 plane crash, the newspaper said.

But officials for the borough, akin to a county government, haven't been able to arrange suitable docks or come up with a business plan that covers the overhead, which runs $75,000 a month for insurance, maintenance, fuel, docking fees and other expenses. The Susitna can carry 134 passengers but only 20 vehicles, and burns through 375 gallons of fuel an hour while similar ferries use about 55 gallons.

The Daily News said besides the $751,000 offer from Workships Contractors BV of the Netherlands, other parties that have expressed some interest include Los Angeles County, the U.S. Virgin Islands and a Danish entrepreneur representing Chinese investors interested in turning it into a floating casino off Singapore's coast.

"I was expecting more offers and higher offers, even if it was just for scrapping the vessel," said Marc Van Dongen, the borough's port director.

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