Kwa-di Tabil-class ferry

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MV Chetzemoka at Keystone 2011.JPG
MV Chetzemoka, the first of the class, sailing into Keystone Harbor (2011)
Class overview
Builders: Todd Pacific Shipyards
Operators: 2010–present: Washington State Ferries
Preceded by: Steel Electric Class ferry
Built: 2009–2012
In service: 2010–present
Planned: 3
Completed: 3
Active: 3
General characteristics
Type: auto/passenger ferry
Tonnage: 4623
Displacement: 1515 long tons
Length: 273' 8"
Beam: 64'
Draft: 11'
  • 1 vehicle
  • 3 passenger:
    • Sun Deck
    • Main Cabin
    • Mezzanine
Deck clearance: 15' 10" – 16' 1"
Installed power: Twin 3,000 hp diesel engines
  • 15 knots (listed)
  • 13 knots (observed)
  • 748 passengers
  • 64 vehicles (maximum)

The Kwa-di Tabil (kwah DEE tah-bale)[1] class ferries, previously known as the 100 Vehicle Class[2] and later 64 Vehicle Class,[3][4] were built by Washington State Ferries to replace the retired Steel Electric ferries. The vessels to serve lower traffic routes and carry up to 64 vehicles. The State of Washington spent approximately $213 million to construct the three ferries in this class.[5]


Ferries in this class include:


In November 2007, Washington State Ferries made the decision to remove the 80-year-old Steel Electric ferries from service over safety concerns. Routine inspections revealed serious hull corrosion damage on two of the four old vessels. When the Steel Electrics were removed from service, there were no ferries able to carry vehicles on Port Townsend / Coupeville route as no other vessel could be used in Coupeville's small, shallow Keystone Harbor.[6]

Due to the vessel shortage created by the sudden retirement of the Steel Electric Class ferries, Washington State Ferries decided to base the design of the Kwa-di Tabil class ferries on an existing ferry, the MV Island Home which runs between Martha's Vineyard, MA and Woods Hole, MA. The State Legislature authorized and funded vessel construction in February 2008[7] and the first vessel was built on tight 18 month schedule by Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle (by state law all new Washington State Ferries vessels are built in Washington[7]).

The first ferry, MV Chetzemoka, was christened by Gov. Christine Gregoire and began service November 14, 2010[8] on the Port Townsend / Coupeville route. Two boat service returned to the route on July 1, 2011 with the delivery of the second ferry, the MV Salish.[9] The MV Kennewick entered service on February 14, 2012 and was assigned to the Port Townsend / Coupeville route, allowing the Chetzemoka to be reassigned to the Point Defiance–Tahlequah route and the 65-year-old ferry MV Rhododendron to be retired.


The Kwa-di Tabil class ferries have had a number of problems since they were delivered. Most seriously, the non-symmetrical design of the ships caused them to list noticeably to one side. After a few months in service, ballast was added to one side of the vessels to correct the list.[10]

Despite promises that the Kwa-di Tabil class ferries were designed to serve all routes and terminals in the WSF system, they have proven to be ill-suited for many routes.[10] The narrow car decks on the ferries make it difficult to turn vehicles around[10] (necessary on the inter-island route in the San Juans Islands and on the Fauntleroy / Vashon / Southworth route). During a December 2012 and January 2013 fleet emergency, the Salish was pressed into service on the well-traveled Bremerton-Seattle run. It was at that time that it was discovered that the Diesel fuel hungry engines on the Kwa-di Tabil class ferries struggled to make the 15.5 knot speed for which they had been designed, and the Salish averaged at best 13 knots.[11]

This speed limitation results in major travel delays when the Kwa-di Tabil class ferries are used on longer routes, in addition to the capacity problems created by using a smaller vessel.[citation needed]


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