Alaska clarifies new rules for ferry travel, no test required for short trips

The view off an Alaska Marine Highway System ferry. (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

Passengers taking short trips on state ferries within Alaska are exempt from COVID-19 testing requirements, the Alaska Marine Highway System said on Wednesday.

The clarification came three days after the state ferry system announced its new protocols for travelers.

On Sunday, the system said that passengers over the age of 2 on mainline ferries Kennicott, Matanuska and Tustumena needed proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72-hours before boarding. Now, it says, that does not apply to shorter duration and day-boat ferry rides within state.

RELATED: Most travelers screened at Alaska airports opt to test for COVID-19 instead of two-week quarantine

A negative result from a COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure is still required for passengers departing from Bellingham, Wash., and headed to Alaska.

Passengers already in Alaska and on trips crossing the Gulf of Alaska, along the Aleutian Chain, including Kodiak, or headed to Bellingham have two options:

• They can bring a signed statement that confirms they’ve quarantined for two weeks before departure.

• They can bring a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken within five days of departure.

Face coverings are required in most parts of the ferries. That doesn’t apply to children under the age of 2, and the system says it will accommodate passengers unable to wear a face covering.

Passengers also can’t go ashore during port calls until their final destination, the state ferry system says.

The system says if a COVID-case is found onboard it may mean a two-week quarantine for all people on the ferry.

Mainline ferry service resumes this week.

But the Tustumena will not sail until July 2 because of “ongoing COVID-19 mitigation,” according to the state transportation department. Earlier this month, eight crew tested positive for the virus.

RELATED: People entering Alaska by land and sea must follow the state’s travel policy. Here are the rules.

Joe Viechnicki is a reporter at KFSK in Petersburg.

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