The city of Kodiak, Ouzinkie, and Port Lions won’t have ferry service from March till early April this year. The reason for the five-week gap in ferry service is the Tustumena needs to complete its annual state overhaul. A process to make needed repairs and conduct mandatory inspections.
Captain John Falvey, the general manager for the Alaska Marine Highway System, says it’s quite an operation.
“We have to follow federal regulations that these inspections must be done. Some of them are yearly, some of them have to happen every five years. We have to pull the shafts and the propellers out every five years. There is [a] tremendous amount that goes into being very very sure that when that ship sails out of there they’re safe.”
The region experienced a similar gap in service last year, according to Falvey. But, he says, the Marine Highway used to be able to cover these absences.
“Now in year’s past, when we had 11 ships running, of course, we’re down to nine ships now because of budgets. We had extra money to cover these gaps. You know, we had the money to run the Kennicott to go cover that potential four or five-week gap that the, you know, the Tustumena’s got that we just can’t afford to cover it because of budgets.”
These kinds of service gaps, Falvey says, could continue into the future if the Marine Highway doesn’t get more funding. He estimates the Kodiak region should have normal ferry service again in early April.