The Alaska Marine Highway System said it has arranged for the cargo-hauling ship line Coastal Transportation to help AMHS customers whose freight service has been disrupted by the delay of the M/V Tustumena to return to service from repairs.
the AMHS said May 9, will carry cargo on an "as able basis" from Homer and Kodiak to Aleutian Islands destinations at the same cost the ferry system charges.
The AMHS is part of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
The Marine Highway System also said cargo customers of the normal ferry service "should let Coastal Transportation agents know they are displaced AMHS customers to ensure they receive the AMHS rate."
While that can provide some service relief to businesses that normally ship freight on the ferry, the announcement noted that "unfortunately, Coastal Transportation is prohibited from carrying passengers."
Gov. Bill Walker said: "On behalf of the Alaska Marine Highway System and impacted Alaskans, I am deeply grateful to Coastal Transportation for stepping up to help Alaskans with this vital transportation service."
The Tustumena went to the Vigor Ketchikan Shipyard March 13 for a scheduled annual overhaul, with plans to return to service May 27. However, the AMHS on May 4 said crews found "additional extensive steel wastage in the engine room" that needed repair, and the ferry service now expects the vessel to return to service departing Homer on July 18.
The announcement noted that the Tustumena is 53 years old, and that a replacement vessel has been designed but awaits funding through the state's pending fiscal year 2018 capital budget.
The delay, it said, "impacts communities in Southwest Alaska and along the Aleutian chain." The AMHS said its staff explored several options to fill the transportation void resulting from the Tustumena's delay.
"The use of another AMHS vessel was not viable without the risk of a more widespread and disruptive service outage, both in terms of passenger disruption and financial consequences for individuals and for the marine highway system," it added.
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