New buyer sought for the Steel Electrics

Declining steel prices mean Washington State Ferries will try to find another buyer for the four old Steel-Electric ferries that for years were a common sight on the Port Townsend-to-Keystone route.

A deal to sell the boats for scrap metal was suspended due to the plummeting price of scrap steel. As recently as two weeks ago, the boats were expected to be taken to Mexico and turned into scrap.

Now, the ferry system is looking for a better offer. The asking price is $650,000 for all four vessels.

Marta Coursey, spokesperson for Washington State Ferries, said when the ferry system promised the four vessels to Seattle-based, Environmental Recycling Systems in September 2008, the price of steel stood at approximately $700 per metric ton. Since then, the price has dropped to between $130 and $170 per metric ton.

The cost of steel was important in the September deal because ERS tentatively purchased the four ferries for $500,000 plus 10 percent of the money made off the recycling revenue.

Coursey said interested companies will have until 4 p.m., Monday, Feb. 2, to make a proposal for all four ferries.

As of Wednesday afternoon, one company, Managing Green based in Tacoma, had submitted an offer. The company’s owner, George Heigerken, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment and Coursey didn’t have any information available about the bid.

Should the ferry system not find a suitable alternative, then it will move forward with the original sale to ERS.

The Steel Electrics served the Port Townsend Keystone route until November 2007 when officials decided to pull them from service due to safety concerns.

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