Ferry system changes horse travel fees

The Alaska Marine Highway System is making it easier for horse-owners to travel with their animals.

Equestrians earlier this year complained that a $1,000-per-animal deposit was excessive. The money covered the cost of cleaning up any waste that ended up on the car deck.

Ferry Chief Mike Neussl says the new policy reduces the deposit to $500. It also covers multiple animals being transported together.

Neussl says horse-owners can put the deposit on a credit card, which will not be charged unless there’s a problem.

“We don’t actually have to collect the money. If fact, we would prefer to not to actually collect the money, only to have to give it back. Hopefully there won’t be any need to retain it. Hopefully there won’t be any need for a clean-up. But we need those assurances that we have access to the clean-up funds if we need them,” Neussl says.

Horse-owners said the $1,000-per-animal deposit kept youth groups from traveling to horse shows and competitions.

Some equestrians also asked to be allowed off the ferry to exercise their horses on voyages to and from Bellingham.

Neussl says owners can already buy a split vehicle-and-trailer ticket for those trips. That way, they can drive off, let their horses out for a while, and then reboard.

“The difference in fares between Juneau-Bellingham direct versus Juneau to Ketchikan and Ketchikan and Bellingham is only $1 per linear foot of vehicle. So if you have a 35-foot truck-and-trailer combination it would be $35 extra dollars to do that double-ticketing,” he says.

He says the deposit is a recent addition to ferry rules. It was added because new federal regulations prohibit washing anything off the deck into the ocean.

The changes were presented at last week’s Marine Transportation Advisory Board meeting.

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