SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Fairweather's fleet return delayed


March 04, 2009

The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) fast ferry Fairweather's return to service has been delayed and is tentatively rescheduled to resume service in Southeast Alaska on or about June 7 according to Capt. John Falvey, AMHS' general manager.

"Fairweather has been undergoing a complete and comprehensive engine overhaul during its Capital Improvement Project," Falvey said. "The problem we've encountered is a lack of available, necessary parts from the manufacturer in Germany."

Falvey explained that the engines used in the Fairweather are not widely used worldwide. That scarce use means that, in most instances, there is a very long lead time to acquire the parts, because the company doesn't have them in stock, so the company has to manufacture them.

"We are working to resolve the issue of scheduling service for Southeast Alaska, particularly Sitka," said Falvey.

The M/V Fairweather, a fast ferry catamaran in the Alaska Marine Highway System, was built by Derecktor Shipyards in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 2003 and 2004, and began service on June 8, 2004. It is powered by four diesel engines and water jets for a service speed of 32 knots which is only matched in the ferry system by its younger sister ship, the M/V Chenega.

Quoting Wikipedia, Fairweather's highly anticipated entry into the ferry system, however, was plagued with problems. First a log was sucked into a water jet disabling one of four waterjets until the log was removed by divers during the evening maintenance period. Several months later, in December 2004, the Fairweather was then hit by a rogue wave enroute to Juneau from Haines in Lynn Canal during a winter storm. The wind reported at Eldred Rock on that day exceeded 60 knots, a rare occasion on this route, and were outside of the vessel's normal operational limits. The wave damaged the forward portion of the hull (center portion between the twin hulls well above the waterline) and the ferry was out of service for two weeks. Later, in 2005, labor negotiations put the boat out of service for a considerable amount of time. The variety of problems experienced by the Fairweather has garnered comparisons to the PacifiCat Series ferries that were unsuccessfully operated by the British Columbia ferry system. The most recent problems that have stricken the vessel have occurred to the vessel's propulsion systems:

  • The number one main engine was replaced as a warranty repair when improperly assembled exhaust system components came loose in the "V" of the engine causing loose components to wear into the block resulting in a jacket water leakage into the exhaust system.
  • All four main engines were repaired by machining the engine blocks and installing oversized liners to correct a corrosion problem in the cylinder liners upper landing area caused by incorrect jacket water coolant that was recommended by the engine manufacturer.
  • All four reduction gears were removed for repairs - cracks on the bull gear and excessive bearing housing clearances.


Sources of News:

Alaska Department of Transprotation and Public Facilities



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Ketchikan, Alaska