Walk-on passengers and vehicles load onto the LeConte ferry for a trip to Hoonah and Gustavus at the Alaska Marine Highway System’s Auke Bay Terminal in July 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Walk-on passengers and vehicles load onto the LeConte ferry for a trip to Hoonah and Gustavus at the Alaska Marine Highway System’s Auke Bay Terminal in July 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Angoon moves to hire private ship to transport goods

Without ferry service the city turns to the private sector

Following a community meeting Friday evening, the City of Angoon announced it would be seeking to charter a private catamaran to move people to and from Juneau before Thanksgiving and possibly after.

In a notice posted to the city’s Facebook page, Angoon Mayor Joshua Bowen said possible trips had been discussed for Nov. 24, 27 and 30.

“Depending on how many people were interested, we could decide on whether to cap the passengers at 100 which will allow each passenger 100 pounds of freight,” Bowen wrote. “Otherwise, we can do 150 passengers with 50 pounds of freight each.”

The maximum price would be $65 per person, the post said, depending on how many people buy tickets.

On Nov. 4, the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities announced it would be ending service to Angoon, Tenakee, Pelican and Gustavus, Haines and Skagway would receive weekly service and Hoonah twice a month.

The Department cited higher-than-expected repair cost for two of its vessels. A few days earlier on Oct. 28, DOT announced it would be putting the M/V Malaspina into indefinite layup, also due to high repair costs.

The M/V Tazlina had been scheduled to receive new side doors, but following requests from local municipalities including Haines and Skagway, DOT announced Friday those repairs would be delayed and the ship put back into service.

But Angoon’s dock is in need of repairs, and can’t currently accommodate the Tazlina. Bowen previously told the Empire the parts to repair the dock have been waiting in Juneau, but the department doesn’t have the funds to repair Angoon’s dock.

During Friday’s meeting it was suggested that the city help to pay for the dock’s repairs.

“We have proposed reaching out to DOT and telling them that we will charter a landing craft with a crane on it so all they need to do is load the motors on the landing craft and send a guy over to install them,” Bowen wrote.

Neither Bowen nor DOT returned multiple calls seeking comment.

The Alaska Marine Highway System has faced a number of cuts in recent years, and service has been severely cut back.

Bowen previously told the Empire that a truck would make weekly runs to Juneau on the ferry for supplies. The city does not have a landing strip that can accommodate large planes, so without the ferry the city’s only options for moving freight are private ships.

Bowen told the Empire on Friday he had been speaking with Goldbelt Inc. about the possibility of hiring one of their catamarans.

“Folks, we can make this work, and keep the ticket prices low for everyone, we just need to coordinate and communicate with each other,” Bowen wrote. “Please speak to your family and friends, both in Angoon and Juneau, about whether we want to charter a catamaran. Hopefully the ramp will be fixed, but until it is, we need to help ourselves and do what we can to move people around.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.

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