Alaska officially parting ways with fast ferries

The fast ferry M/V Fairweather steams through Chatham Strait in 2011. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska)

Alaska is surplusing its fast ferries.

Local governments and state agencies have been asked to submit proposals according to a public notice that appeared Monday on a state website.

Selling off the fast ferries was anticipated after the Alaska Marine Highway System removed the Fairweather from service earlier this year. Its sister ship Chenega has been tied up since 2015.

Both are moored in Ketchikan’s Ward Cove.

The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities says both vessels are considered excess. Relatively high fuel consumption made them expensive to operate though they proved popular with the public.

“AMHS has planned for years to find ways to phase them out and plan was to divest of the costly to operate (fast ferries) as soon as possible due to previous budget reductions,” the transportation agency’s regional spokeswoman Aurah Landau wrote in a Tuesday statement.

The department has invited prospective buyers to submit proposals by June 10. The notice is a requirement before the vessels can be listed on the open market.

The pair of catamarans came into service 15 years ago. They cruise at about 32 knots allowing them to complete a run in about half the time as the rest of the fleet.

The $36 million vessels fell out of favor amid cost-cutting as the legislature reduced appropriations to the state ferry system.

Lawmakers slashed the the state ferry system’s appropriations by about $40 million this year. Its budget won’t be final until the governor signs the budget bill.

Jacob Resneck is CoastAlaska's regional news director in Juneau.

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