Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Susitna ferry performs beautifully in Clarenc

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Tuesday, September 07, 2010

SUSITNA FERRY— Aboard the MV Susitna Tuesday, Co-Inventor Lew Madden said the new ferry moved beautifully through choppy seas of Clarence Strait outside Ketchikan.

“She is very very stable. It’s a comfortable ride,” said Madden who is the Owner’s Representative for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the owner of the $70 million Susitna ferry.

The Susitna is likely the most complex commercial ship built in the last 100 years. The ship operates as a shallow draft boat, able to beach on shore, and a high speed twin hulled craft able to move swiftly with ease. The nearly 1,000 ton ship also is capable of breaking through ice by lifting and snapping ice across its steel front.

degreesofturnlowresThe U.S. Navy paid for most of the ship and is testing the technology for a future landing craft or connector ship.

It was the fifth time the Susitna was operating under her own power as part of the first test runs of the innovative ship. The Susitna operated under her own power for the first time on Aug. 31.

Madden described sea conditions as three to four foot waves and 20 knots of wind, in which the Susitna performed very well. The testing included lowering the barge or vehicle deck, which converts the ship from its swath mode to a landing craft mode. The ramp was deployed to touch the water. “That’s to test the deployment of equipment for something like an oil spill response,” Madden said. “It worked perfectly.”

It takes about 10 minutes to lower the barge from Swath mode to landing craft mode. When the ship is in landing craft mode it moved with the swells, “but with the barge up the ship was really not moving at all,” Madden said.

Different systems on the ship were being tested Tuesday, including the ship’s thrusters and different degrees of turns.

Madden said the crew takes the ship out for eight to 12 hours each run.

Sadly for Madden, there are no extra chairs on board yet.

For more information call Patty Sullivan, Public Affairs Director 745-9577 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photos by Charlie Starr of Shooting Starr Photography.