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Tazlina christening set for Saturday

KETCHIKAN (KDN) — History will be made Saturday afternoon at the Ketchikan Shipyard when first lady Donna Walker christens the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Tazlina — the first state ferry to be built in the Last Frontier.

“Christening the M/V Tazlina is an honor for me, and an exciting moment for Alaska,” Walker said in a prepared statement released Monday by the Alaska Department of Transportation. “This vessel — and its sister ship — will improve access throughout Lynn Canal for the hundreds of thousands of Alaskans, tourists and businesses who rely on the Alaska Marine Highway. By building the vessel in Alaska, we also helped launch a thriving maritime industry based on local opportunities and jobs.”

The 280-foot Alaska Class ferry has been constructed at the Ketchikan Shipyard by Vigor Alaska, which operates the state-owned facility. The second Alaska Class ferry, the Hubbard, is now under construction at the Ketchikan Shipyard.

“Vigor is honored to partner with the State of Alaska to build these ferries, and it is remarkable to see the first ferry, M/V Tazlina, ready to be christened,” said Frank Foti, the CEO of Vigor Industrial, the Portland, Oregon based parent company of Vigor Alaska. “Our Ketchikan team deserves real credit for the outstanding quality and scope of work achieved over the last three years. AMHS’ productive and positive collaboration with the Vigor team throughout the project resulted in a great ferry that will well serve the people of Alaska long into the future.”

According to the DOT announcement, the Tazlina project supported more 100 full-time, yearround positions in Ketchikan over three years, “with average annual earnings of over $80,000.”

The Tazlina was constructed with 23 modules that were joined together. It has a capacity for 300 passengers and 53 standard size vehicle.

Compared to the existing state ferries Aurora and LeConte, the Alaska Class vessels are “longer, wider, deeper and heavier and can handle much higher winds and seas,” according to the announcement.

“The new Alaska Class ferries will be a valuable transportation asset in Northern Lynn Canal and will help improve ferry system reliability and flexibility,"  Capt. John Falvey, AMHS general manager, said in the prepared statement.

The Tazlina is expected to enter service in May 2019, according to DOT.

The name Tazlina was suggested by Melea Voran, who, while a seventh-grader at Port Alsworth Tanalian School, wrote the winning naming-contest essay.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said the name comes from the Ahtna Athabascans, and means “swift river.”

Voran, said Walker, “wanted this small ferry to be named after something big and inspiring.

 “(Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott) and I felt it was hard to argue against that: we’re already inspired,” Walker said in the prepared statement. “We’re proud to be watching this new vessel connect Alaskans, carry their belongings, and improve access throughout the Inside Passage. It’s no small job, but she’s up to the task."

Saturday’s event, which is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. at the Ketchikan Shipyard, is open to the public. Tours of the Tazlina will be available after the christening.

In addition to Donna Walker, anticipated attendees include Gov. Bill Walker; Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott; Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka; DOT Commissioner Marc Luiken; and the Rev. Pat Travers.