The State Department of Transportation is negotiating the sale of the mothballed state ferry M/V Malaspina. A new company formed by John Binkley and Dave Spokely, owners of a tourism enterprise in Ketchikan, wants to buy the state’s first ferry and turn it into a museum and tourist attraction.
The department says M/V Malaspina, LLC’s proposal fulfills a state goal of preserving the historic ship, which was constructed in 1963 and was the first ferry to enter service for the Alaska Marine Highway System. It has been moored at Ward Cove in Ketchikan since 2019. The cost of repairing it and making it serviceable have risen over the years. Initially, repairs were estimated to cost about $16 million, but since being in Ketchikan, more work has been identified, including replacing much more steel than previously estimated and a need for new or refurbished engines, reduction gears, and propellors.
The newly formed company is a venture between Fairbanks-based Binkley, owner of the Anchorage Daily News and other businesses in Alaska, and Spokely, a longtime Ketchikan resident who has had several businesses in Southeast Alaska, primarily Ketchikan, where he is the developer of Ward Cove, a former pulp mill site that the Spokely and Binkley families are turning into a tourism facility that includes docks. They have invested more than $50 million into that project. Their company, Ward Cove Dock Group, is the actual owner of the M/V Malaspina, LLC.