Ferry System on Course Despite Lack of Skipper


Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska

It could be a while before the Alaska Marine Highway System gets a new top official. But a long-time manager is filling in. CoastAlaska’s Ed Schoenfeld reports.

Former Deputy Commissioner for Marine Operations Jim Beedle retired at the end of last month. His two and a half years in the post capped a 37-year ferry system career.

Transportation Department spokeswoman Mary Siroky (sir-OH-key) says Commissioner Mark Luiken (LOO-kin) wants to take the time to find the right person for the job.

Siroky, 10 seconds: He’s doing what commissioners frequently do. He’s asking around, doing typical networking to see who is out there, who is available and who is interested.

In the meantime, Captain John Falvey is doubling as deputy commissioner. He’s been the system’s general manager for about seven years.

Siroky, 17 seconds: He is the guy who makes sure the boats float every day, the terminals run and that the marine highway serves the people of Alaska. So if there are huge policy issues, and those sorts of things, Captain Falvey will be brought in.

Transportation Commissioner Luiken (LOO-kin) has already named his two other deputy commissioners. Steven Hatter is in charge of aviation and Pat Kemp will run highway operations.

Falvey says he’s honored to fill in. But he wouldn’t say whether we wants the permanent job.

Falvey, 19 seconds: I think it’s very important that I am used in a capacity that best serves the state of Alaska, that best serves the Alaska Marine Highway System, via the talents that I have and helping our commissioner Luiken with the day to day operations of the marine highway system.

Whoever is picked will face some major challenges.

Officials hope to continue the funding needed to keep a stable schedule while maintaining the fleet. They’re trying to figure out how to replace or repair failing engines on the fast ferries Fairweather and Chenega. And they’ll seek money for the first of several Alaska Class Ferries, a new type of ship to be used for mostly daytime sailings.

Korsmo, 8 seconds: Past history shows that if they make the wrong decision that person will have a difficult time with the legislature.

Skagway’s Mike Korsmo chairs the state’s Marine Transportation Advisory Board.

Korsmo, 15 seconds: There is a little concern that coming into the legislative session that there isn’t somebody there representing the marine highway’s interests. But often times Captain Falvey participated with Deputy Commissioner Beedle in the legislative actions.

Korsmo says he’d rather wait for the right person than rush the process, which includes input from the advisory panel.

Siroky says the commissioner is actively looking for a new ferry chief. But he has no firm timetable.

This is Ed Schoenfeld in Juneau.

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