The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Tustumena down, not out


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Another sunny Saturday for the AMHS M/V Tustumena in drydock at Seward Ship's. All of the remaining hull work along the bottom toward the stern is being inspected and rewelded as required by a committee of 4 inspectors and engineers along with representatives of the United States Coast Guard and the American Bureau of Shipping.

The M/V Tustumena will not return to ferry service until October at the earliest, according to the Alaska Marine Highway System. AMHS announced the indefinite delay last week and cited the vessel’s continuing failure to pass United States Coast Guard inspection. However, management at Seward Ship’s Drydock maintains that the latest schedule stands and work should be completed and certified in time for end of August service. However, AMHS is now less certain about a timeline and wants to avoid setting another specific date before the end of the repairs are definite.

SSD undertook the $6.3 million contract to overhaul the 50-year-old Tustumena earlier this year. Much of the hull work was completed in June. Then radiographic scans of welds prompted USCG to question the quality of work. Pinkney Cunningham, SSD general manager, said that although the scans of the welding work showed apparent defects in the welds, the physical gouging out of the welds has not confirmed those observations.

Under increased scrutiny, the metal underbelly of the Tustumena is being pieced back together.

The rewelding work is ongoing under the supervision of no less than four specialists along with representatives of USCG Anchorage technical staff and inspectors from the American Bureau of Shipping. Seward Ship’s is employing two independent contractors that are certified to USCG and ABS standards, the AMHS has their own similarly accredited contract inspector, and there is also a newly arrived forensic weld specialist.

SSD owner Jim Pruitt notes the over 100 change orders to the original contract for the overhaul, highlighting the unforeseen aspects of working on the aging vessel which has gone without substantial hull maintenance for decades. Pruitt also pointed out the difficulty in piecemeal welding of decaying metal to new material which could underscore the anomalous results from testing earlier this month. However, with all the hands currently on deck, the work to patch together the Tustumena is sure to past muster soon.


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