The Tazlina docks at the Auke Bay Ferry Terminal Thursday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

The Tazlina docks at the Auke Bay Ferry Terminal Thursday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

DOT: Staffing shortages mean fewer ferries this summer

Service may improve if more crew becomes available, officials say

The Columbia will be the only ferry making continuous voyages between Bellingham, Washington, and major Alaska ports from May through September of this year, according to the recently released Alaska Marine Highway System summer schedule.

Due to staffing shortages, both the Kennicott and Tazlina will not be in service, meaning AMHS will be unable to service Yakutat and will reduce service to some Southwest and Prince William Sound communities. The Matanuska is also out of service due to repairs.

However, according to the department spokesperson Sam Dapcevich, the two ships will remain ready to go if sufficient crew becomes available.

“Right now, we are in heavy recruitment mode, our goal is to get the Kennicott going, that will be our first effort,” he said. “We are hitting every opportunity we can, and we are trying to think outside the box and get those skilled mariners hired.”

In light of Kennicott’s absence, AMHS is looking for other alternative options for cross-gulf, Prince Rupert and Yakutat travel, according to a statement by Ryan Anderson, department commissioner.

“While we are hopeful we can get the Kennicott crewed over the next months, we will also be evaluating possibilities to continue Prince Rupert service through alternative means and provide supplemental service for Yakutat and cross-Gulf of Alaska connections,” Dapcevich said.

The LeConte is scheduled to stop at Northern Panhandle ports Angoon, Hoonah, Pelican, Tenakee, Kake, and Gustavus out of Juneau.

Dapcevich said AMHS expects the Leconte to provide “much better” service to the Northern Panhandle ports because the Hubbard is able to service Lynn Canal and free up the LeConte which in the past assisted in servicing that region.

The Hubbard will sail North Lynn Canal runs between Skagway/Haines to Juneau six days per week.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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