Ferry Columbia still under repair, expected back in service July 13

The ferry Columbia is tied up at the Ketchikan Shipyard in February, 2012.
The ferry Columbia is tied up at the Ketchikan Shipyard in February, 2012. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

The Alaska Marine Highway has cancelled another week of sailings on the 418-foot ferry Columbia. The ship was evacuated because of exhaust onboard after the ship had docked in Bellingham on June 29. This past week and this coming week’s sailings are cancelled as the ferry system works to repair a damaged exhaust and turbo charger.

Ferry system spokesperson Aurah Landau called the repairs challenging and said the Columbia needs to move to the Fairhaven shipyard in Bellingham.

“The vessel needs to move to shipyard for support,” Landau explained. “Another sailing is going to be cancelled. All the port dockings between July 6 and July 12 are cancelled for the Columbia and the vessel’s projected to resume its schedule upon leaving Bellingham on July 13.”

The repairs will include fabricating new sections of a large, 1980s-vintage exhaust system for the bow thruster. Passengers for the July 6 sailing were contacted to reschedule. Landau said the impacts are big from two weeks of cancellations.

“The Columbia has been cancelled all the way up through Southeast Alaska in and out of communities during the busiest time of the year,” she said. “We’ve got very heavy passenger loads and car loads during that time with no ships to take up the slack and the impacts to passengers and communities and revenue certainly is big.”

The Columbia makes a weekly round-trip run between Bellingham and Skagway, with stops in Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau and Haines. It also stops in Sitka on the return trip south.

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