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Tacoma’s Martinac may be dropped from ferry contract

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Dec. 12, 2011 at 2:20 pm | No Comments »
December 12, 2011 1:57 pm

Tacoma-based J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corp. expects to be dropped from the group of companies building Washington a $147 million ferry.

The Pierce County delegation in the Legislature is asking Gov. Chris Gregoire to intercede.

Gregoire helped negotiate an agreement between shipyards that made Seattle-based Todd Pacific Shipyards the main contractor on building Washington’s new 144-car ferries. The deal promised subcontractor work for Whidbey Island’s Nichols Brothers Boat Builders and for Martinac, which would outfit the boat with electrical, heating and cooling systems. The project was funded this year and the ferry is supposed to start hauling cars in 2014.

But Portland-based Vigor Industrial, which bought Todd Pacific this year, says it can do the work cheaper — probably by turning to its own subsidiary, Everett Shipyard.

The company formally notified Martinac last week of its intent and has given the company until Tuesday to lower its price or be dropped.

“We have been talking to them over weeks and weeks and weeks saying, ‘Look, we think this is a $15 million project, not a $25 million project,'” Vigor spokesman Steve Hirsh said today. ”We don’t have enough leeway in this budget that we’re going to be able to eat $10 million in unnecessary expense.”

Martinac vice president Jonathan Platt said the company doesn’t think it’s being treated fairly and has asked state lawmakers to step in. Led by Rep. Larry Seaquist of Gig Harbor and joined by County Executive Pat McCarthy, they wrote a letter to Gregoire on Friday:

We ask for your immediate, personal intervention to assure that the specific intent of the legislature and of your own negotiations creating the consortium are carried out. This means well over one hundred good jobs in Pierce County alone and the continued viability of our state’s shipbuilding industry.

Lawmakers wrote that some workers would be “imported” from Portland, which “would appear to controvert our build-in-Washington policy.”

Hirsh said he couldn’t promise that all workers would be from Washington, only that all of it would take place in Washington and use union labor. But he said when Everett Shipyard did similar work building smaller 64-car ferries for the state, only a tiny fraction of the work was done by out-of-state workers — “something like less than a quarter of a percent.”

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