Marine highway juggling ferry schedules

The Alaska Marine Highway ferry M/V Columbia sails into Vigor Shipyard in Portland last year for dry dock. (Photo courtesy AMHS)

M/V Columbia sails into Vigor Shipyard in Portland last year for dry dock. (Photo courtesy AMHS)

The state ferry Columbia will not return to service until June 18th, about seven weeks later than expected.

The ship has been out of service since September for a major overhaul, including new engines.

Now there’s a faulty oil pump in the port engine.

State transportation department spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says it could impact some Southeast Alaskans returning home from Celebration, the biennial dance and culture festival in Juneau.

“We’ve revised the schedules for the Fairweather, the LeConte and the Malaspina. And there are going to be some passengers that might want to try get home on Sunday that might not get home until Monday,” he says.

The Columbia went into dry dock at Vigor Shipyard in Portland on September 1, 2013. Work was supposed to be done by May 1. There have been a number of delays since and when the ferry couldn’t make a Wednesday sailing, the Marine Highway pushed the date to next week.

Woodrow says it was fairly easy to absorb Columbia traffic early in the season. With Celebration, it’s more of a juggle for Marine Highway schedulers.

“We revised the schedule around when we knew the Columbia was going to be late, so we could get folks to Juneau. Now we have to move the vessels around once again,” he says. “The ships are full end of this week and through the weekend. That’s why we made some schedule changes so we can get them all home.”     

Woodrow says the Columbia left the Portland shipyard last Friday. The oil pump problem happened in transit to Bellingham, Wash. He says a new oil pump is being shipped from Finland.

Ferry schedule changes can be found at the Alaska Marine Highway System website, or by calling local ferry reservation offices.