In December 1999, NASSCO was awarded a $300-million contract from Totem Ocean Trailer Express, Inc. (TOTE) of Seattle, Washington, to build two roll-on, roll-off (RO/RO) trailerships for TOTE’s Tacoma-to-Anchorage cargo service.
NASSCO created a unique design for these new ships, tailored to TOTE’s specialized requirements for the rigors of its Alaskan service.
The new ships are 839 feet long and have a beam of 118 feet. Cargo decks are 360,000 square feet and are able to carry up to 600 cargo trailers and 200 autos. The ships are twin-screw, with diesel-electric propulsion that can achieve a speed of 24 knots.
Construction on the first Orca-class ship, the M. V. Midnight Sun, began in June 2001 and its christening was August 3, 2002. The M. V. Midnight Sun was delivered in April 2003. The second ship, the M. V. North Star, was christened on June 14, 2003, and the ship was delivered in August 2003.