The Alaska Marine Highway System’s fast ferry Fairweather moored at its home terminal in Auke Bay in Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The Alaska Marine Highway System’s fast ferry Fairweather moored at its home terminal in Auke Bay in Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Doom for the fast ferries: Two more go up for sale

Finances, new ferries serve as factors for sale

The F/V Fairweather is leaving Juneau on Thursday. It might never come back.

The fast ferry will sail to Ketchikan on Thursday and be laid up in Ward Cove, Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Public Information Officer Aurah Landau said Tuesday. The department will then begin the process of selling it and the F/V Chenega, Landau said.

“Both fast ferries will be put up for sale in the next few months,” Landau said in an email.

The ferry’s staff will be reassigned to other vacant positions, and all non-essential equipment from coffee machines to artwork will be taken off the vessel. The staff will technically be laid off this month in accordance with union contracts, but there are enough vacancies on other ships that nobody will lose their job, Landau said.

[Ferry system braces for budget cuts]

It’s the same process the state went through when it sold the Bartlett and the Taku, Landau stated. The fate of the Fairweather has hung in the balance for quite some time. The ferry was laid up for the season in September, and at the time Capt. John Falvey (the general manager of the Alaska Marine Highway System) said it was uncertain what was going to happen to it long term.

The Fairweather is approaching 15 years old, and the state is bringing on at least one ship this year. The F/V Tazlina is ready to be deployed into Lynn Canal. Operating the Tazlina instead of the Fairweather, Landau said, is expected to save the state about $400,000 due to the lower cost of fuel.

“With completion of the Tazlina, and its deployment in Lynn Canal this summer, the Fairweather is no longer needed,” Landau said in an email.

[‘Bittersweet for Alaska’: Beloved ferry Taku just sold to a Dubai company]

The Tazlina is slower than the Fairweather and can only make one trip per day in Lynn Canal, but it can take 53 vehicles compared to Fairweather’s 31 vehicles, so Landau said it “can provide a similar level of service.”

The Alaska Marine Highway System’s financial struggles in recent years have been well documented. If it hadn’t been for an emergency bill passed by the Alaska Legislature in March 2018, the ferry system would have shut down in mid-April. In recent years, organizations including Southeast Conference and McDowell Group have teamed up to work on a reform plan to change the way the ferry system is run to make it more profitable.

The Alaska Marine Highway System’s fast ferry Fairweather moored at its home terminal in Auke Bay in Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The Alaska Marine Highway System’s fast ferry Fairweather moored at its home terminal in Auke Bay in Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

In his Feb. 13 budget proposal, Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed a 75 percent reduction in the AMHS budget. Under the proposal, the ferry system would stop running in October, and the state is looking to contract a researcher to look into the best way to move forward with the AMHS.

Employees, regular users of the ferries and many legislators have objected strongly to the proposed cuts.

[‘We’re not giving up our ferries’: Hundreds rally at the Capitol]

Money is a past, present and future problem for the ferry system, which Landau said helped spell doom for the fast ferries.

“AMHS has determined it cannot operate these vessels given current and anticipated funding levels, and the expense of long term storage is not justified,” Landau said via email.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Nov. 27

FILE - Freight train cars sit in a Norfolk Southern rail yard on Sept. 14, 2022, in Atlanta. The Biden administration is saying the U.S. economy would face a severe economic shock if senators don't pass legislation this week to avert a rail worker strike. The administration is delivering that message personally to Democratic senators in a closed-door session Thursday, Dec. 1.  (AP Photo / Danny Karnik)
Congress votes to avert rail strike amid dire warnings

President vows to quickly sign the bill.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire
Juneau state Sen. Jesse Kiehl, left, gives a legislative proclamation to former longtime Juneau Assembly member Loren Jones, following Kiehl’s speech at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce’s weekly luncheon Thursday at the Juneau Moose Family Center.
Cloudy economy, but sunnier political outlook lie ahead for lawmakers, Kiehl says

Juneau’s state senator tells Chamber of Commerce bipartisan majority a key to meaningful action

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Hunter credits community members for Thanksgiving rescue

KENAI — On Thanksgiving, Alaska Wildlife Troopers released a dispatch about a… Continue reading

The snowy steps of the Alaska State Capitol are scheduled to see a Nativity scene during an hour-long gathering starting at 4 p.m. Friday which, in the words of a local organizer, is “for families to start their Gallery Walk in a prayerful manner.” But two Outside groups dedicated to placing Nativity scenes at as many state capitol buildings as possible are proclaiming it a victory against the so-called “war on Christmas.” The head of Alaska’s Legislative Affairs Agency, which has administrative oversight of the building, said the gathering is legal since a wide variety of events occur all the time, often with religious overtones, but the placement of a fixed or unattended display is illegal. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Scene and heard: Religious freedom groups say Nativity event makes statement

State officials say happening planned for Capitol relatively common and legal.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Thursday, Dec. 1

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

Steve Lewis, foreground, and Stephen Sorensen from the Alaska State Review Board scan ballots from precincts where they were hand counted at the Division of Elections office Nov. 15. Board officials spent the period between the Nov. 8 election and its certification Wednesday performing about 20 different to verify the results. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Election certified, but challenges pending

Outcome of at least two state House races unknown, which may determine chamber’s leadership

Errol Culbreth and Scotlyn Beck (Polichinelles) rehearse ahead of Juneau Dance Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker.” The immensely popular ballet is coming to the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Friday through Sunday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Juneau Dance Theatre is ready to get cracking

“The Nutcracker” is set to run Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

In this photo provided by the National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB investigator Clint Crookshanks, left, and member Jennifer Homendy stand near the site of some of the wreckage of the DHC-2 Beaver, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, that was involved in a midair collision near Ketchikan. The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration should tighten rules about minimum visibility during flights and require more weather training for pilots who fly around Ketchikan.  (Peter Knudson/NTSB via AP)
Safety board recommends new measures for Alaska air tours

The board wants regulations for Ketchikan similar to requirements in Hawaii and the Grand Canyon.

Most Read