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New buyer emerges for Steel Electrics

The Steel Electric ferry Quinault sets sail from Keystone Harbor before being retired in November 2007. A company in Tacoma bid to purchase the four ferries was accepted Friday.  - File photo
The Steel Electric ferry Quinault sets sail from Keystone Harbor before being retired in November 2007. A company in Tacoma bid to purchase the four ferries was accepted Friday.
— image credit: File photo

Puget Sound's beloved Steel Electric ferries won't be heading to the scrap heap after all.

Washington State Ferries on Friday selected a new buyer who is hopes to find a new use for the four classic ferries. It won't necessarily be transporting cars and passengers.

Managing Green LLC of Tacoma was the only company to submit a proposal last month to purchase the old ferries, built in the 1920s. The company agreed to purchase the bunch for $650,000.

Managing Green owner George Heidgerken didn't announce any specific plans for the four ferries, but said he would look to find the highest, best use for the vessels.

"We don't want to talk about something we don't have," Heidgerken said in a Wednesday telephone interview before Friday's announcement that he had won the bid.

The ferries aren't entirely safe from destruction, but Heidgerken said scrapping the old boats as was planned earlier is now "a last resort."

He said the historical character the Steel Electrics could be put to other uses. They could be converted into space for art galleries, offices or restaurants. The ferries would offer 26,000 to 27,000 square feet of usable space.

Having four ferries for sale was one of the factors that compelled an offer from Managing Green.

"We wouldn't have been interested in them if there was only one," Heidgerken said. He's now looking for a place to store the ferries.

Now that the bid has been tentatively accepted, Managing Green will have two business days to submit a $30,000 deposit and seven additional days to come to a purchase and sale agreement.

Laura Johnson, a spokesperson for Washington State Ferries, said there is a Feb. 12 deadline to work out a purchase and sale agreement. Once the agreement is finalized, Managing Green will have 30 days to move at least two of the Steel Electrics from the ferry system's Eagle Harbor facility. It has to remove the remaining two boats 45 days after the purchase and sale agreement is finalized.

The ferry system had originally agreed to sell the ferries to Environmental Recycling Systems in Seattle for $500,000 plus 10 percent of the revenue that comes from scrapping them. However, the price for steel was hovering around $700 per metric ton and has plummeted to between $130 and $170 per metric ton.

Johnson said ERS's offer will remain as a backup in case the agreement with Managing Green falls through. ERS planned to send the boats to Mexico for scrapping.

Because of the price decline in steel, Washington State Ferries looked for another potential buyer with a $650,000 asking price for all four ferries. Managing Green was the only company to submit a proposal.

The Steel Electrics served the Port Townsend to Keystone ferry route for years until November 2007, when officials retired the vessels due to safety concerns surrounding the vessels' hulls.

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