Tustumena service delayed until May 18

AMHS says repairs are needed for “extensive steel wastage” in the car deck.

The vessel is scheduled to resume service May 18, instead of April 19 as planned.

When it’s running, the M/V Tustumena services Homer, Seldovia, Kodiak, and the Aleutian chain. (Photo courtesy Alaska Marine Highway System)

The Alaska Marine Highway System announced yesterday  that the M/V Tustumena will be delayed returning to service this spring. Instead of setting out on April 19 as planned, the vessel, which services Southwest Alaska and the Aleutian chain, will make its first trip of the season from Homer to Kodiak on May 18.

According to an AMHS press release, repairs are needed for what they’re calling “additional extensive steel wastage.”

“The vessel has been in overhaul, they’ve investigated what work needs to be done. Doing the work as part of the investigation they found some additional steel that needed replacing in the car deck,” AMHS spokesperson Aurah Landau said over the phone on Thursday. “And so that’s what’s extended the time that the vessel needs in dry dock.”

“Steel wastage” is basically what happens when steel parts of the vessel corrode or otherwise weaken due to normal use, says Landau.

The 55-year old ferry went in for its scheduled annual overhaul on February 17. According to Landau, the total rough cost of the Tustumena’s overhaul this year was $2.8 million, including $800,000 for these additional repairs. For context, the total operating budget for the vessel in the 2018 fiscal year was $11.3 million, according to the the AMHS annual financial report.

Landau says AMHS is partnering with the Coast Guard to ensure the Tustumena is safe for travel before it sets out from Ketchikan next month. “The Marine Highway System works very closely with the Coast Guard in identifying potential repairs, in doing the engineering and the design for making those repairs happen and then certifying that those repairs are done well and the vessel is safe for sailing,” she said.

In the meantime, AMHS staff is contacting passengers affected by the delay, and an updated schedule is available at FerryAlaska.com. You can also get more information by calling your local ferry terminal or the AMHS central reservation office.

This story has been updated.

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