A trio of state ferries are docked as the Columbia arrives at the Alaska Marine Highway System headquarters in Ketchikan on July 16. (Meredith Jordan / Juneau Empire File)

A trio of state ferries are docked as the Columbia arrives at the Alaska Marine Highway System headquarters in Ketchikan on July 16. (Meredith Jordan / Juneau Empire File)

Winter ferry schedule is out and it’s better than before

13-day gap in mainline service in December, but more consistent service to smaller Southeast towns

The Kennicott ferry will be coming online in mid-December when Columbia goes in for its annual overhaul, but not before a nearly two-week blackout in service between Bellingham and major Alaska ports, according to the winter ferry schedule released Wednesday.

“There will be a service gap for Southeast for just under two weeks” between Dec. 2 and 14, said Sam Dapcevich, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Columbia is scheduled to resume work starting March 15.

The overall schedule offers fewer gaps than the initial schedule last year, which omitted service to four small Southeast Alaska communities in January and February. This year Pelican is the only community without regularly scheduled ferry service during the winter period.

The Alaska Marine Highway System will not be taking reservations for Kennicott after the end of February until it becomes clear whether there will be enough crew to run both mainliners.

This winter LeConte and Hubbard will share service through the Lynn Canal, meaning either one ship will run or the other. That accommodates the scheduled overhaul of LeConte, which begins at the end of November, and the Hubbard, which goes offline in mid-March.

Pelican, which relies on a ramp, will lose regular ferry service when the LeConte goes offline. Its dock can’t accommodate the Hubbard. However, supplemental contract providers will fill in the gap in service, Dapcevich said. Separately, the master plan process includes plans to upgrade various docks to make them more accessible to newer ships.

All other ports have regular schedules, including Kake, Angoon and Tenakee Springs, which will have service four days a month on average this winter.

The new schedule was released after a public review and comment period.

• Contact Meredith Jordan at meredith.jordan@juneauempire.com or (907) 615-3190.

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