The Alaska Marine Highway System’s newest ferry Tazlina is the first state-owned ferry ever built in Alaska.
During a ceremony Saturday on board the vessel, Ketchikan residents and state officials gathered for the ferry’s christening ceremony.
The ferry’s car deck was packed with people eager to see the new vessel, built in Ketchikan’s Vigor Alaska shipyard. Most of those attending were local residents, with visiting state officials sprinkled in the audience and up on stage.
As appropriate for a christening, the event started and ended with prayer. Joe Williams led the opening prayer, but first he sang a Tlingit welcome song.
Vigor Executive Vice President Adam Beck thanked everyone for attending, and recognized Vigor’s work crew.
“I ask all the great employees of Vigor that are here today that I have the great honor of representing to please stand with me,” he said. As they stood, the audience gave a round of applause.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski touted the long-range vision needed by many for the Ketchikan shipyard to get to this point.
She honored her father, former Gov. Frank Murkowski, who was in the audience, and other state officials throughout the years who had the vision leading to “the first state ferry to ever be built right here, and recognizing it is the first of a new fleet of ferries that will provide the safe, the efficient, the affordable marine transportation for the next several decades – 30, 40 years.”
State Sen. Bert Stedman says it took determination on the part of many people, including Gov. Bill Walker, to maintain funding to build the Tazlina and her sister ship, the Hubbard, which is still under construction by Vigor.
Stedman says there was a push to defund the project when state revenue tanked.
“We were bleeding 2.5 billion dollars in the red, and here’s $120 million sitting there in cash (for) some smaller community, (at the) bottom of Southeast Alaska,” he said. “All these guys in the Railbelt are just frothing to get the governor to grab the cash.”
Walker also spoke, and says it’s an honor to be the governor on that day, in particular, when the first made-in-Alaska state ferry was christened.
“This is one of the best success stories of Alaska, when we show that we can build the highest-quality vessel right here in Alaska, by Alaskans,” he said.
A closing prayer by The Rev. Patrick Travers of Ketchikan’s Holy Name Parish brought the ceremony nearly to an end.
Then it was Alaska’s First Lady Donna Walker’s big moment.
She needed just one swing to break the traditional bottle of champagne against the Tazlina’s hull, followed by an enthusiastic ringing of the ship’s bell.