“The vessel will remain out of service for the winter and the marine highway system will assess options for future use of the vessel when it looks at the results of the marine highway system economic restructuring analysis,” Alaska Marine Highway System spokesperson Aurah Landau said in a statement to CoastAlaska.
The 418-foot ferry primarily serves Lynn Canal communities and through the Inside Passage to Ketchikan; Prince Rupert, British Columbia; and Bellingham, Washington.
Landau said the MV Malaspina and MV Matanuska are expected to substitute for the larger vessel for a projected monthly cost savings of around $400,000.
“The M/V Columbia is more expensive to operate than other vessels that can substitute for it,” she wrote in a followup statement Tuesday.
The state plans to assign the ferry’s 62 crew members to other vessels. The head of the ferry system’s largest union said the 45-year-old vessel is popular with workers and passengers alike.
“They call her the ‘queen of the fleet.’ She’s a beautiful ship,” Inlandboatmen’s Union regional director Trina Arnold said Monday. “A lot of the crew members that work there, they’re out there half their life.”
Arnold said there’s concern among ferry workers that continued cost-cutting will make it difficult for the marine highway to fulfill its core mission of connecting communities as the fleet continues to shrink.
“It just feels like we’ve already lost the Taku, we lost the Fairweather and the Chenega,” Arnold said, “and it just seems like we keep losing a vessel, and the communities are hurting for that.”
The Taku was sold for scrap last year. The fast ferries Fairweather and Chenega are in the process of being surplussed and sold.
The Legislature appropriated about $40 million less to the ferry system compared to last year. But it’s not yet known where in the system those cuts will have the biggest impact.
This story has been updated with additional comments from Alaska Marine Highway System spokesperson Aurah Landau.
Alaska has a lot going on right now.
Never miss the important parts with insightful (and entertaining) news from The Signal, the best weekly Alaska news email.
- Despite the risk of a landslide, Gee Denton refuses to leave her house. “I've had to spend five-and-a-half years in this season of my life begging for people to be responsible for their responsibilities,” she says.
- Former assistant public advocate Kelly Parker filed the lawsuit in Anchorage Superior Court on Oct. 8 against Gov. Mike Dunleavy, his former chief of staff Tuckerman Babcock, and the state of Alaska.
Can high school teams in Southeast Alaska compete with rivals on the North Slope? With esports, it’s possible.Esports is growing in many high schools across Alaska. The sport was sanctioned by the the Alaska School Activities Association in April, and more and more students are getting involved.
- The Army Corps of Engineers says it has sufficient information to rule on a permit for a floating megaship dock in Ward Cove. That’s despite requests from the city of Ketchikan to hold hearings.