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Alaska Ferry Services Threatened by Winter Shutdown

By ,   February 27, 2019 ,   Cruise Industry

The Alaska Marine Highway System has no scheduled sailings past October 1, 2019, amid funding uncertainty in the budget proposal of Alaska Government for the Fiscal Year 2020.

The Department of Transportation has reportedly told the Senate Finance Committee last week that it was planning zero ferry means of transport from October through June.

The governor’s office has confirmed that funding would continue through summer but no sailings would be scheduled from October 1 until June 30, 2020.

On February 12, Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a directive to the Department of Transportation to enlist “assistance of a qualified marine consultant to identify potential reductions of the State’s financial obligations and/or liability to the Alaska Marine Highway System.”

The consultant is to work with the department as well as the Office of Management and Budget in order to investigate options to reshape the ferry system of Alaska, including a possible public or private partnership. The report is set to be implemented by July 1, next year.

The governor’s budget that was announced on February 13 would see a reduction of nearly US$96 million from the budget of the ferry system, which translates to about 75% of its funding.

Aleutian Islands (Alaska)

Image: Aleutian Islands (Alaska)

The Alaska ferry services provide overnight cabins. Routes stretch from Bellingham, close to Seattle, north through the Inside Passage, and then west to the Gulf of Alaska and along the Aleutian Islands to Dutch Harbor, covering around 3,500 miles.

The individual routes include the Inside Passage, South-central Alaska, South-west Kenai Peninsula, and the Aleutian Islands. The most popular itinerary is 7 nights from Washington State to Panhandle and back.