The M/V Susitna or the Matanuska-Susitna Borough ferry is a 195-foot military prototype vessel, after the complete and successful sea trial, the craft was towed back to Seattle for refurbishment prior to its final voyage to the Philippines for its official handover to the Philippine Red Cross.

Fortunately, it was acquired by the Philippine Red Cross for $1.75 million, far from Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s original price of $80 million dollars.

The M/V Susitna in sea trials in the waters near Ketchikan, Alaska. Photo by Charley Starr

According to the PRC Chairman Richard Gordon yesterday, the ship M/V Susitna will be delivered to the country from Alaska this July.


The craft will serve as emergency units’ fast transport and landing vessel, relief supply transport ship, hospital ship, medical facility deployment ship, sea rescue vessel, mass evacuation vessel, humanitarian logistics ship, mobile operations command post and humanitarian education and training ship.

Gordon said, “the necessity for a ship was further driven home by the PRC’s experience when typhoon Yolanda battered Eastern Visayas, causing the closure of airports and seaports which made it difficult for the Red Cross to bring relief to the affected areas.”

He said, at the onset of Yolanda, it took us four days to reach affected areas. Hence, the Philippine Red Cross and delegates from partner national societies and (IFRC) International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent agreed that we need our own ship to effectively perform our humanitarian work in the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific Region,”

Gordon said, “since it is designed for direct beach landings and to operate and land cargo and passengers on unimproved areas and damaged ports and wharfs, we won’t have to go through what we have experienced during Yolanda again.”

A week ago, amid the PRC’s 31st Biennial Convention, the PRC went into a concurrence with the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific for the provision of crew and maintenance for the ship once it has been delivered to the PRC.

“It would be manned only by six people as everything is computerized and the Red Cross will only have to provide for the crew’s allowance. It will be a sacrifice for our crew but since this is for the Red Cross, it will be worth it because it will ultimately be for the people and our country,” he said.

“This ship can land on the port, and where there is none, on the beach or shore, can carry ten trucks of relief goods, also can accommodate 120 people sitting comfortably there, or evacuate a village of a thousand people. Now, we have a ship and a very good institution to run it,” he said.

“The plan is to dock it first in Manila Bay, and eventually in the Visayas when help is needed,” Gordon added.

The  M/V Susitna

A barge and a convertible expedition craft, which was built for US$80,000,000, to connect Alaska’s financial center with the fastest growing community in Alaska, just two miles across the water. No ferry landings were ever built, and the ship was never put into commission.

Berthing it with the crew, lease costs, fuel, etc. ran up approximately US$90,000 per month in costs, and the Matanuska-Susitna BoroughAssembly did not believe that taxpayers should bear such costs. Instead, the Borough offered to either transfer the ferry for free to government entities in the U.S. in January 2013 or to sell the ship to a commercial interest. Sealed bids were taken through March 29, 2013.

The ferry is a one-of-a-kind, ice-capable vessel that can transition from barge to twin-hulled ship, designed by Guido, Perla & Associates based on a concept by Lockheed-Martin Corporation for the Office of Naval Research as a half-sized prototype for a military vessel.

LEW MADDEN, SUSITNA CO-INVENTOR said –“It’s an omnivore. It’s not optimized for any one task, but it has a wide range of tasks it can do, and that’s what makes it useful. It can work in deep seas, it can work in rough waters, It can break the ice, It can work in shallow waters and go up to the beach. There’s no other ship in the world that can do that.”

Susitna was built by Alaska Ship and Drydock, Inc., in Ketchikan. Design and construction costs were funded by the United States Navy Office of Naval Research to study the technology for its potential as a new type of expeditionary landing craft, also called an “E-craft”. The basic construction of the ferry was completed and she was christened M/V Susitna in June 2010, but it was never put into service.

The vessel is 59 meters (195 ft) long and has a capacity is 129 passengers and 20 automobiles. Her design incorporates lift technology that allows changing from the Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull (SWATH) mode to barge mode by lowering or raising her center deck. She is the world’s first ice-capable twin-hulled vessel, and the world’s first ship able to convert between a high-speed SWATH hull to a shallow barge-type. – J.C.E. /PRC / Wikipedia