Two vessel changes could save the Alaska Marine Highway System from spending tens of millions of dollars, according to a release from the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities on Wednesday.
A December meeting of the Alaska Marine Transportation Advisory Board showed that the ferry system would need $30 million to install crew quarters on the Alaska-Class Ferries Hubbard and Tazlina, according to a report from the Anchorage Daily News.
To avoid most of those costs, AMHS is putting the Tazlina in Lynn Canal to replace the F/V Fairweather starting in May 2019. The Hubbard will then move to Prince William Sound to replace the Aurora in 2020, according to Wednesday’s release. This will save the ferry system $27 million that would have been used to add crew cabins, the release states.
Forward side doors will be installed on the Hubbard and Tazlina at a total cost of $3 million. The DOT&PF release stated that this could also lead to other savings by getting the Aurora and Fairweather off the water before they required a combined $11 million in repairs this year. Upcoming engine repairs to the Aurora alone would have totaled $10 million, according to the release.
This doesn’t change the plans dramatically for the Aurora and Fairweather. The Fairweather was already scheduled to be laid up indefinitely in September 2019, DOT&PF spokesperson Aurah Landau said Wednesday. The Aurora was headed for those major engine repairs sometime soon.
Service to Southeast communities will change slightly. The Tazlina is slower than the Fairweather, but it will operate seven days a week instead of four in order to provide the same level of service, according to the release. The Tazlina is more efficient and will require about $500,000 less in fuel costs per year, DOT&PF officials stated.
AMHS will be contacting passengers who have booked trips on those ships to re-book or refund fares as necessary.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.