JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) – One of Alaska’s original ferries has been officially sold and is now ready for a second life as a floating museum just a few miles from Ketchikan.
The M/V Malaspina, which entered service in 1963, was inactive for nearly three years. The state of Alaska has since paid $450,000 a year to store and maintain the ship.
On Wednesday, businessman John Binkley officially purchased the ferry for $128,250. He said the Malaspina will be reborn as a museum with a planned collection of memorabilia.
“Truly to preserve history, to celebrate the men and women who served Alaskans for decades as crew members on the Alaskan Marine Highway System,” Binkley added.
There are also plans to use the ferry for worker accommodation and to help train future seafarers. But Binkley says it’s “daunting” how much work will need to be done before the ferry opens to the public, which he hopes will happen next spring or summer.
The ferry’s paint is peeling, it’s streaked with rust, and pipes have burst inside. Binkley says it will take “loving care” to get electricity and water systems working again for customers. When asked how much it would cost to restore, Binkley replied, “I don’t want to know,” laughing.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities says it has sold five state ferries in the past 20 years. The M/V Taku was scrapped in 2018 and two of the Alaska fast ferries were sold last year, sailing across the Atlantic Ocean for a second life in Spain.
The Malaspina, affectionately known as “Queen of the Fleet,” was decommissioned in 2019. Estimates say it would cost over $70 million to get her going again.
The state had offered to give the Malaspina to the Philippine government for free, and there were talks of scuttling it to save on storage costs. Its second life as a museum is presented as a way to “preserve its legacy”.
“As the former Queen of the Fleet and the first major ship built, we didn’t want just any future for the Malaspina, and we certainly didn’t want her to be sold for scrap. It gives him a retirement we can be proud of,” Capt. John Falvey, general manager of the Alaska Marine Highway System, said in a prepared statement.
Binkley is the head of the Ward Cove Group, which operates a new cruise ship complex seven miles outside Ketchikan on the site of a former sawmill. The visitor center will welcome tens of thousands of cruise passengers each year.
Visitors are ready to learn about the Tongass National Forest and the logging history of the area. Soon cruise ship passengers, school children, and Alaskans in general will be able to come and learn more about Alaska’s marine highway system.
“Let’s keep our history here and celebrate it,” Binkley said. “We have a fantastic history and a wonderful transportation system. And so many people in other parts of Alaska don’t even know what that means for the Alaskan coast.
“And how hard those people on those ferries have worked every day to serve Alaskans, and we want to celebrate that, we want to recognize that and really honor them and the whole transportation system that we rely on here. in the southeast. ”
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