AMHS may explore selling Taku ferry

If the state’s budget outlook remains unchanged, the Alaska Marine Highway System will begin investigating whether to surplus the state ferry Taku in the next six months.

“Right now, we’re looking at the Taku first, and that’s why we put it out of service,” said Capt. John Falvey, general manager of the ferry system, in a telephone interview on Friday.

The state hasn’t hit that point yet, Falvey stressed, saying it’s a “conversation that’s got to happen at high levels.”

Falvey said he and Michael Neussl, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Transportation, have discussed what’s next for the Taku, and “everything from selling it to trying to run it again” is on the table.

A final decision on the fate of the Taku would sit with DOT Commissioner Marc Luiken, according to Falvey.

During a presentation to Southeast Conference in September, this year held in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Neussl said he believed the ferry system would sustain itself by reducing the size of the fleet.

“I think the numbers are speaking that we can’t afford to operate an 11-ship fleet with the frequency of service that we’ve kind of become accustomed to,” Neussl said on Sept. 15.

Getting rid of the ship has its own costs. The state could surplus the vessel or scrap it, but scrapping the Taku comes with clean-up costs.

“We’re not driving forward in earnest to start writing reports or starting to look at the cost of one thing compared to another,” Falvey said.

The Taku would be on the block before others because it’s the smallest of the system’s mainliners, he said. As the state’s budget forces the system to cut service and take ferries out of service, the ferries that are operating will run closer to capacity.

“It’s a fine line between cost savings and the ability to generate revenue with bigger ships,” Falvey said. “We looked a lot at that before we decided to take Taku out of service.”

The Taku is in layup status for the winter. The ferry system’s proposed 2016 summer schedule calls for the mainliner to remain there through Sept. 30.

There’s eight weeks of paperwork, an overhaul and maintenance work between its current state and the 52-year-old Taku’s return to service, according to Falvey.

Its layup status in the First City will save the system cash through the winter as a “hotel ship,” Falvey said, meaning it will board the crew of other ferries going through maintenance at the Ketchikan Shipyard.

The Taku’s certificate of inspection was set to expire in July, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The vessel was put into an inactive status before the expiration date, Falvey said, which allows the vessel to come back online faster than it would had it lost its certificate.

“We took those extra steps to give ourselves that margin of safety should the boat run again — and maybe it will,” Falvey said.

The Taku will stay in Ketchikan through the winter and will most likely remain at the state berth throughout its 2016 layup.

It sailed within the Inside Passage, from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, to Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg and Sitka and on to Juneau and Skagway.

It was sidelined earlier this year because of a backlog of maintenance work on the Matanuska and the Malaspina.

The Taku, built in Seattle, is designed to carry 350 passengers, 69 vehicles and a crew of 42.

It will carry a crew of 11 in layup. Most of the positions on the vessel, one of the original three that created the ferry system, were cut between July and August.

The Taku is one of three ferries that meets international safety of life at sea requirements, which allows it to dock in Prince Rupert. The Matanuska and the Kennicott also have the SOLAS classification.

More in News

In this Empire file photo, a Princess Cruise Line ship is seen docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021.(Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire file)
Ships in Port for the week of May 15, 2022

This information comes from the Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska’s 2022 schedule.… Continue reading

Oil rigs stand in the Loco Hills field along U.S. Highway 82 in Eddy County, near Artesia, N.M., one of the most active regions of the Permian Basin. Government budgets are booming in New Mexico. The reason behind the spending spree — oil. New Mexico is the No. 2 crude oil producer among U.S. states and the top recipient of U.S. disbursements for fossil fuel production on federal land. But a budget flush with petroleum cash has a side effect: It also puts the spotlight on how difficult it is for New Mexico and other states to turn their rhetoric on tackling climate change into reality. (AP Photo / Jeri Clausing)
States struggle to replace fossil fuel tax revenue

Federal, state and local governments receive about $138B a year from the fossil fuel industry.

In this October 2019 photo, Zac Watt, beertender for Forbidden Peak Brewery, pours a beer during the grand opening for the Auke Bay business in October 2019. Alcoholic beverage manufacturers and dispensers recently came to an agreement  on a bill that could bring live music and extended hours to breweries. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Of the more than 460 stoOf the more than 460 stocks managed by NOAA, 322 have a known overfishing status (296 not subject to overfishing and 26 subject to overfishing) and 252 have a known overfished status (201 not overfished and 51 overfished). (Courtesy Image / NOAA)
Southeast fisheries hoping for less turbulent waters

Regions and species see wildly variably conditions due to climate and COVID-19, according to two new NOAA reports.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Saturday, May 14, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday, May 13, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This photo published in AP World Magazine in Fall 1998 shows Dean Fosdick on election night in Anchorage, Alaska. Fosdick, the Associated Press journalist who filed the news alert informing the world of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, has died. He died April 27, 2022, in Florida at the age of 80. His longtime career with the news service included 15 years as the bureau chief in Alaska. (AP Photo/File)
Longtime AP Alaska bureau chief Dean Fosdick dies at age 80

He filed the news alert informing the world of the Exxon Valdez grounding.

A number of sentencings by a U.S. District Court judge were announced on Thursday for several unrelated arrests that had occurred over the last several years. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Department of Justice announces multiple criminal sentencings

The three suspects, arrested across the Southeast over the last four years, were not related to each other.

This photo shows a Wilson’s warbler, which breeds in shrub habitat on the Tongass National Forest. (Courtesy Photo / Gwenn Baluss, U.S. Forest Service)
Saturday is for the birds

Global Bid Day and World Migratory Bird Day.

Most Read