State ferry Tustumena repairs delay Kodiak Island service

a ferry in the dark
The M/V Tustumena pulls away from Kodiak on Jan. 11, 2020. (Kavitha George/KMXT)

The Alaska Marine Highway System has announced that the ferry Tustumena will be delayed coming out of its annual maintenance overhaul.

Last week’s update means the Tustumena’s earliest sailing to Kodiak Island is on the evening of May 9, when it’s scheduled to stop in Port Lions and Ouzinkie as well as Kodiak, departing Homer at 8:45 p.m. Originally it was expected to be back in service by the end of this month, April 30.

The marine highway system’s director, Craig Tornga, discussed the delay during a public meeting online to discuss the ferry system’s long-range plan. He said that several ferries are spending a lot of time in the shipyard this season due to “wasted steel” suffering from rust, including the “Trusty Tusty.”

“(We) found a lot of steel wastage in several areas on the Tustumena,” Tornga said. “The struts, the strut supports, cracks in pitting on the leading edge of the rudders, wastage in the coolant boxes. A lot of repairs to the turntable on the car deck.”

Tornga said the department has the money to cover the extra repairs, but additional steel work on multiple ferries, including the Tustumena, was not originally in the budget. Not all of the identified repairs are being done now though, according to Tornga. The Coast Guard has allowed AMHS to defer some of the work on the Tustumena to be completed next year.

Separately, a different sailing schedule for this year’s Crab Fest over Memorial Day weekend, May 23-27, has also been announced. The Tusty will no longer stop in Port Lions or Ouzinkie ahead of that event on May 23 and 24 as originally scheduled and instead will go straight from Homer to Kodiak and back on May 23.

But, to accommodate the surplus of ferry-goers sailing during Crab Fest, there will also be an extra run from Homer to Kodiak over the weekend. That’s according to local staff at the Kodiak ferry terminal.

Meanwhile, the Tustumena Replacement Vessel project has funding to move forward to build a new, hybrid-powered ferry by 2027, which would officially retire the 60-year-old Tusty. Sam Dapcevich, a spokesperson for the ferry system, said the project has yet to go out to bid as state officials work out final details with the Federal Transit Authority. The total cost of the project is unknown at this time, although he estimates the final price tag could top $300 million.

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