Ferry Contract

New ferry contract effective April 1, 2022 

Pierce County Planning and Public Works will be implementing a new contract with HMS Ferries Inc. for ferry operations, effective April 1, 2022. The new contract has been restructured to a performance-based contract to better serve our passengers and provide additional transparency and accountability.

Empty Ferry About to Load

Operator: HMS Ferries Inc.

Start Date: April 1, 2022

Performance Period: Up to 20 years total. (Five-year base period, with options for three additional five-year period.)

Key Changes: Expanded service, key performance indicators (KPIs), and performance standards.

Annual Contract Cost: $3.3 million to $3.9 million for the first five years.

Key Contract Changes

Expiring ContractNew Contract


100% cost-reimbursement plus fixed management fee.

Combination of fixed price and cost reimbursement with management incentive fee. 

The management fee portion of the compensation will now be paid based on quarterly evaluations of the contractor’s performance rather than a flat fee.


$2.7 million in 2021.

Contractor’s operating budget was fixed by specific line item (labor, supplies, training, etc.) and did not allow for adjustments to account for wage increases and labor market issues.

$3.5 million in 2022. 

Contractor can allocate fixed price portion as needed to ensure optimum balance between staffing, supplies, training, technology, and other expenses.


Limited ticketing system provided by a third party and billed separately with a cost sharing agreement.

Full service and modern ticketing system and real-time rider updates.

Level of Service 

Provided two-boat service twice a week (Friday and Sunday) from June-August.

Two-boat service was not a requirement of the contract.

Provides two-boat service three times a week (Friday, Sunday, Monday) and aligns peak season ticket fares (Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day).

Two-boat service included in the contract.

Customer Service 

No customer feedback program.

Conduct monthly customer satisfaction surveys.


No incentives or penalties for contractor’s performance.Key performance indicators will be measured and published on the Open Pierce County website and used to determine the management fee payment.
Performance Standards (Key Performance Indicators)
Performance ObjectiveTargetMinimum AcceptablePerformance StandardMethod of AssessmentFrequency

On-time Departure Rate

All ferry trips will depart the landing per the scheduled departure time and no trips will be delayed due to contractor’s inability to perform.

95.0%90.0%A departure is considered “on-time” if it departs the landing within 10 minutes of the published schedule.Departure Reports

Mechanical Breakdown

Reports Incident Reports

Accident Reports

Unscheduled Visits


Trip Completion Rate

All scheduled trips will be completed, and no trips will be canceled due to contractor’s inability to perform.

95.0%90.0%A trip is considered “completed” if it departs and arrives at the designated landing in accordance with the published schedule.Departure Reports

Mechanical Breakdown Reports

Incident Reports

Accident Reports

Vessel Run Time Reports

Unscheduled Visits


Maintenance Accomplishment Rate

All operational maintenance in the Annual Maintenance Plan will be completed on time, and no maintenance will be deferred due to contractor’s inability to perform.

95.0%90.0%An operational maintenance activity is considered “on-time” if it is completed within one interval of the scheduled due date. For example, a Weekly PM must be completed before the next week’s PM is due. Daily PMs must be completed the day they are scheduled, otherwise, they must be recorded as “Missed.”Maintenance Accomplishment Reports

Incident Reports

Accident Reports

Periodic Sampling


Customer Satisfaction Rate

The majority of the riders will be satisfied with their experience using Pierce County ferries, and the Contractor will take active measures to improve customer satisfaction rate.

75.0%N/AA customer is considered “Satisfied” if they provide neutral or positive feedback in response to their ferry experience.Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Customer Feedback Forms

Incident Reports

Accident Reports

Periodic Sampling

Factors excluded from the calculations:
  • Documented Emergencies (fire, law enforcement, medical)
  • Railroad crossing delays at Steilacoom Ferry Terminal
  • Weather events deemed unsafe to operate by the Master
  • Maintenance and repair delays by outside vendors or County staff
  • Documented mechanical breakdown of County-owned vessels or terminal facilities

A competitive request for proposals (RFP) was issued in late 2020, and three bids were received in early 2021. Pierce County selected HMS Ferries Inc., the current ferry operator, in May 2021.