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

City reports new cases, state announces 46th death

City and Borough of Juneau reported three new COVID-19 cases on Thursday.… Continue reading

Police calls for Friday, Sept. 25, 2020

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

City, state announce new COVID-19 cases

Results in from Glory Hall testing, too.

Police calls for Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020

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

3 local cases, 50 statewide reported

City and Borough of Juneau reported on Tuesday three new COVID-19 cases.… Continue reading

This March 2010 photo shows the view from Dead Dog Hill at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. (Courtesy Photo / Bryan Petrtyl, National Park Service)
Hunter killed by bear in national park

National Park Service says the mauling happened Sunday.

Cellist Zuill Bailey, shown in this undated photo, is artistic director for Juneau Jazz and Classics. He will also perform in this year’s Fall Festival, a virtual event. (Courtesy Photo / Juneau Jazz and Classics)
Jazz and Classics returns for Fall Music Festival

Virtual event requires registration.

A 17-year-old boy is being charged with driving under the influence and other charges after an early-morning crash on Sept. 19 damaged two houses in the Mendenhall Valley.
Teenager arrested after vehicle rams houses

The boy suffered a small cut, the only injury of the crash.

Police calls for Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020

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

Most Read