Ferry Columbia expected to return to service

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 largest ship in the Alaska Marine Highway fleet is expected to resume service Friday between Bellingham, Washington, and Southeast Alaska.

The 418-foot ferry Columbia has been undergoing repairs at a Bellingham shipyard.

Sailings the past two weeks were cancelled after the Marine Highway discovered a damaged exhaust system and turbo charger.

The ship was evacuated because of exhaust onboard shortly after docking in Bellingham in late June.

“The Columbia repairs are going well and the Coast Guard is looking like it’s going to be certifying the vessel to leave Bellingham on its Friday July 13 sailing,” said ferry spokeswoman Aurah Landau. “So we’re looking good for our next sailing.”

Repairs have included fabricating some new sections of the engine’s exhaust system.

Landau said there will be more work to do in the winter.

“The Marine Highway System was able to do some repairs at the shipyard in Bellingham and further repairs to do overhaul work on the exhaust system will happen this winter when the Columbia goes in for regular lay up and maintenance,” she said.

No word yet on the cost of that repair work.

The mainline ferry has been out of service for two weeks during its peak summer season.

The ship is scheduled to leave Bellingham at 6 p.m. Friday, headed for communities in Southeast Alaska.

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