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AMHS launches system's analysis, public website


February 23, 2009

The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) announced last week that it has begun a system's analysis and is making the project publically available online. The draft Phase I report, released February 17th, is the first of three phases.

This systems analysis includes an assessment of status quo financial and operational conditions, an examination of management and planning practices, and the first analysis of life-cycle/replacement-costs that has ever been done on the AMHS fleet.

"The purpose of the project is to conduct an analysis of the Marine Highway System to identify financial and operational challenges, examine management and planning practices, and recommend methods and tools to assure the future of a safe, reliable ferry service in keeping with the mission and objectives of the Alaska Marine Highway System," said James Beedle, Deputy Commissioner of Marine Operations for the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

The analysis considers the multi-modal transportation needs of AMHS users, the needs of the coastal communities of Alaska served by the AMHS, and the resources available to fulfill these needs.

"While the AHMS has made many positive changes that have resulted in increases to overall passenger and vehicle ridership, the aging fleet requires constant maintenance to keep it afloat," Beedle explained. "The system generates about $50 million and receives $100 million of state support."

Three AMHS vessels currently in service are 45-years-old. These vessels continue to operate well past their intended retirement date but at significant cost. Maintenance requirements for aging vessels often result in unpredicted downtimes, impacting the dependability of the system. Dependability is essential to attracting and maintaining traffic and revenue.

The systems analysis will address the needs of an aging fleet and vessel replacement for the AMHS.

In Phase II, additional alternative development will build on the options identified in Phase I. During Phase III of the systems analysis, public input on the entire spectrum of financial and operational scenarios for operation of the AMHS will be solicited. Phase II and Phase III will be conducted concurrently. The scenarios will be compared as a function of their respective total life-cycle costs.

"We'll rely heavily on the public input portion of the next phase," Beedle exclaimed. "These are the folks who use the ferries regularly, so we realize that their feedback will be crucial to this analytical process."

The project is being led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Dr. Paul Metz, PE, is the Principal Investigator. Consultants to the project include:

  • The Van Horne Institute
  • HDR Alaska / HLB Decision Economics
  • McDowell Group
  • Information Insights


On the Web:

Draft Phase I report

AMHS study information

Source of News:

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.


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Ketchikan, Alaska