Washington State Ferries (WSF) is a government agency that operates automobile and passenger ferry service in the U.S. state of Washington as part of the Washington State Department of Transportation. It runs ten routes serving 20 terminals located around Puget Sound and in the San Juan Islands, designated as part of the state highway system. The agency maintains the largest fleet of ferries in the United States at 22 vessels, carrying 24.2 million passengers in 2016. As of 2016[update], it was the largest ferry operator in the United States, and the fourth-largest ferry system in the world.
The ferry system has its origins in the "mosquito fleet", a collection of small steamer lines serving the Puget Sound area during the later part of the nineteenth century and early part of the 20th century. By the beginning of the 1930s, two lines remained: the Puget Sound Navigation Company (known as the Black Ball Line) and the Kitsap County Transportation Company. A strike in 1935 forced the KCTC to close, leaving only the Black Ball Line.
Toward the end of the 1940s the Black Ball Line wanted to increase its fares, to compensate for increased wage demands from the ferry workers' unions, but the state refused to allow this, and so the Black Ball Line shut down. In 1951, the state bought nearly all of Black Ball's ferry assets for $5 million (Black Ball retained five vessels of its fleet). The state intended to run ferry service only until cross-sound bridges could be built, but these were never approved, and the Washington State Department of Transportation runs the system to this day.
|Route name||Terminals||State route designation||Annual Ridership||Annual Vehicles Carried||Notes|
|Anacortes–Sidney BC||Sidney, British Columbia||Friday Harbor, San Juan Island||Anacortes||
SR 20 Spur
|Anacortes–San Juan Islands||Friday Harbor, San Juan Island||2,009,438||947,064||
|Interisland||Friday Harbor, San Juan Island||Orcas Island||Shaw Island||Lopez Island||
|Port Townsend–Coupeville||Port Townsend||Coupeville, Whidbey Island||SR 20||819,285||372,130||
|Mukilteo–Clinton||Clinton, Whidbey Island||Mukilteo||SR 525||4,073,761||2,234,650|
|Seattle–Bainbridge Island||Winslow, Bainbridge Island||Seattle (Colman Dock)||SR 305||6,429,853||1,929,617|
|Seattle–Bremerton||Bremerton||Seattle (Colman Dock)||SR 304||2,739,926||673,815|
|Fauntleroy–Vashon||Vashon Island||West Seattle (Fauntleroy)||SR 160||3,059,587||1,738,721||
|Fauntleroy–Southworth||Southworth||West Seattle (Fauntleroy)|
|Point Defiance–Tahlequah||Tahlequah, Vashon Island||Tacoma (Point Defiance)||SR 163||812,786||473,924|
As of 2017[update], there are 22 ferries on Puget Sound operated by the state. The largest vessels in this fleet carry up to 2500 passengers and 202 vehicles. They are painted in a distinctive white and green trim paint scheme, and feature double-ended open vehicle decks and bridges at each end so that they do not need to turn around.
The ferry fleet consists of the following vessels:
|Ferry Name||Class||Year Built (Rebuilt)||Auto Capacity||Passenger Capacity||Speed (knots)||Notes|
|MV Klahowya||Evergreen State||1958 (1995)||87||792||13||Being prepared for retirement and sale as of June 2017.|
|MV Tillikum||Evergreen State||1959 (1994)||87||1061||13||Assigned as the inter island boat in the San Juans|
|MV Kaleetan||Super||1967 (2005)||144||2000||17|
|MV Yakima||Super||1967 (2005)||144||2000||17|
|MV Elwha||Super||1967 (1991)||144||1069||20||Upgraded to meet SOLAS standards for Sidney, BC route in 1990.|
|MV Spokane||Jumbo||1972 (2004)||188||2000||18|
|MV Walla Walla||Jumbo||1973 (2003)||188||2000||18|
|MV Issaquah||Issaquah 130||1979 (1989)||124||1200||16||Auto capacity increased in 1989.|
|MV Kitsap||Issaquah 130||1980 (1992)||124||1200||16||Auto capacity increased in 1992.|
|MV Kittitas||Issaquah 130||1980 (1990)||124||1200||16||Auto capacity increased in 1990.|
|MV Cathlamet||Issaquah 130||1981 (1993)||124||1200||16||Auto capacity increased in 1993.|
|MV Chelan||Issaquah 130||1981 (2005)||124||1076||16||Upgraded to meet SOLAS standards for Sidney, BC route in 2005.
Auto capacity increased in 2001.
|MV Sealth||Issaquah 100||1982||90||1200||16|
|MV Tacoma||Jumbo Mark II||1997||202||2500||18|
|MV Wenatchee||Jumbo Mark II||1998||202||2500||18|
|MV Puyallup||Jumbo Mark II||1999||202||2500||18|
|MV Chetzemoka||Kwa-di Tabil||2010||64||750||15|
|MV Salish||Kwa-di Tabil||2011||64||750||15|
|MV Kennewick||Kwa-di Tabil||2011||64||750||15|
|MV Suquamish||Olympic||2018||144||1500||17||Under construction. Expected to serve Mukilteo-Clinton in Fall 2018.|
Since the beginning of state-run ferry service in 1951, WSF has retired many vessels as they have become older, too expensive to operate or maintain, or have become too small to provide adequate ferry service. WSF owned passenger-only vessels between 1985 and 2009, but after discontinuing its two passenger-only routes in the 2000s, WSF has sold its passenger-only ferries to other operators.
Below is a list of ferries that WSF has retired since 1951. Unless otherwise noted, all vessels introduced in 1951 were acquired from the Black Ball Line when the state took over the company's routes and ferryboats in Puget Sound.
|Ferry Name||Class||Year Built (Rebuilt)||Year in service||Year Retired||Auto Capacity||Passenger Capacity||Notes|
|MV Chippewa||None||1900 (1928/ 1932)||1951||1964||52||950||Converted to a car ferry in 1926|
|MV Leschi||None||1913||1951||1967||40||453||Previously owned by King County and used on Lake Washington|
|SS San Mateo||None||1922||1951||1969||50||659||Purchased by PSN in 1941|
|SS Shasta||None||1922||1951||1958||55||468||Purchased by PSN in 1941|
|MV Rosario||None||1923 (1931)||1951||1951||33||312|
|MV Kitsap (1925)||None||1925||1951||1961||32||325|
|MV Crosline||None||1925 (1947)||1951||1967||30||300||Purchased by the state in 1947|
|MV Kehloken||Wood Electric||1926||1951||1972||50||770||Purchased by PSN in 1940|
|MV Kalakala||None||1926 (1935)||1951||1967||110||1943||Originally built as MV Peralta in 1926; rebuilt as Kalakala in 1935 using Peralta's hull|
|MV Enetai||Steel Electric||1927||1951||1967||90||1500||Purchased by PSN in 1940 and converted to a single-ended ferry|
|MV Willapa||Steel Electric||1927||1951||1967||90||1500||Purchased by PSN in 1940 and converted to a single-ended ferry|
|MV Chetzemoka (1927)||Wood Electric||1927||1951||1973||50||400||Purchased by PSN in 1938|
|MV Quinault||Steel Electric||1927 (1958/ 1985)||1951||2007||59||616||Purchased by PSN in 1940|
|MV Illahee||Steel Electric||1927 (1958/ 1986)||1951||2007||59||616||Purchased by PSN in 1940|
|MV Nisqually||Steel Electric||1927 (1958/ 1987)||1951||2007||59||616||Purchased by PSN in 1940|
|MV Klickitat||Steel Electric||1927 (1981)||1951||2007||64||412||Purchased by PSN in 1940|
|MV Klahanie||Wood Electric||1928||1951||1972||50||601||Purchased by PSN in 1940|
|MV Skansonia||None||1929||1951||1969||32||465||Operated under a state contract since 1940 after the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed|
|MV Olympic||None||1938||1954||1993||55||605||Purchased by WSF in 1954|
|MV Rhododendron||None||1947 (1990)||1954||2012||48||546||Purchased by WSF in 1954, sold to Atlantic Capes Fisheries in 2013|
|MV Evergreen State||Evergreen State||1954 (1988)||1954||2016||87||854|
|MV Kulshan||None||1954||1970||1982||65||350||Purchased by WSF in 1970, sold in 1982 and renamed MV Governor|
|MV Tyee||None||1985||1985||2003||0||250||Operating as M/V Glacier Express in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska as of 2013|
|MV Kalama||Skagit/ Kalama||1989||1989||2009||0||230||Sold in 2011|
|MV Skagit||Skagit/ Kalama||1989||1989||2009||0||230||Sold in 2011; capsized on July 18, 2012|
|MV Chinook||Passenger-Only Fast Ferry||1998||1998||2008||0||350||Sold to Golden Gate Ferries, renamed MV Golden Gate|
|MV Snohomish||Passenger-Only Fast Ferry||1999||1999||2008||0||350||Sold to Golden Gate Ferries, renamed MV Napa|
There are several other publicly operated, private, and passenger-only ferries in Washington state.