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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions


By Mary Lynne Dahl


April 15, 2023

Ketchikan, her close community neighbors and all of Southeast Alaska are in danger. We are at risk of losing our AMHS ferry run to Prince Rupert, BC (YPR) permanently, if we do not make it known, loud and clear, to the State of Alaska that we need to have ferry service to YPR on a regular basis.

Ferry service to Prince Rupert is vital. Because Ketchikan is a roadless community, it is the only way we can reach the mainland quickly at a reasonable cost. Bellingham is too far, takes too long and is far too expensive for residents to use. Prince Rupert is less than a 7-hour trip vs. a 44 hour trip to Bellingham. The fare to Prince Rupert is approximately $400 for a Subaru, driver, 1 passenger and a dog one-way, while the fare for the same folks to Bellingham is just under $2,000 one-way. How many local residents of Southeast Alaska can afford to spend $2,000 just to get to the mainland and then spend it again just to get home?

Not everyone wants to get to the mainland in order to go south anyway. Many of us want to spend the time in BC. My family has no interest in taking an expensive 2-day, 600 mile ferry trip south to Bellingham from Ketchikan, get off the boat and drive north 700 miles to our destination of Smithers. Others head east to Spokane, Idaho, Montana and other Canadian provinces. Locals heading to Seattle usually fly, not ferry.

100% of the numerous people I have talked to have said they want the Prince Rupert ferry run and will not/can not afford to use the Bellingham ferry to get to the mainland. They have said that they feel trapped, neglected and ignored by the ferry system. Several have said they are considering moving away and some have already left. They liken it to being the “unloved ugly duckling” of southeast communities.

DOT claims that they cannot afford to sacrifice any of the Bellingham runs to Prince Rupert because: 1. The Columbia cannot dock in Prince Rupert, 2. The Kennicott requires more crew than they have, 3. The Matanuska is in need of steel replacement and DOT does not want to spend the money to do the job.

I have listened to all of the excuses for not providing service to Prince Rupert. One is that “people do not like to drive through Canada for ‘various reasons’ “. Another is “AMHS gets the most revenue from the Bellingham run”. Is that gross or net revenue? Fuel is about 52% of the cost of ferry service, so the 595 miles to Bellingham burns a lot more fuel than the 90 miles to Prince Rupert, 650% more in fact. Would more 90 mile trips to YPR that burn less fuel produce more revenue than trips to Bellingham? I would like to see the math. Further, ridership from Bellingham is declining and has been since 2013; at last count it was down almost 20% (source: AMHS annual reports).

My request to DOT/AMHS is to reinstate the twice-per-week Prince Rupert run asap. If that means to substitute some runs to YPR instead of Bellingham, that should be done. AMHS should fast-track the hiring of certified crew to dock in a foreign port (YPR), fix the steel problem on the Matanuska and get her back in service and re-certify the Columbia as SOLAS compliant, to dock in YPR as well. Southeast Alaska should not be ignored and left with no access to the road system and no options except the long, expensive trip to Bellingham.

Nothing will happen, however, if residents are complacent. Unfortunately, that is partly why we are being ignored. We need to speak up, make some noise and let it be clear that it is unacceptable to be forced to either stay home or spend the thousands of dollars on the Bellingham run just to get to the mainland. If you care about this, say so. If you do not let the leadership know you care, they will conclude that it is not important. Contact our legislative office at, or and Send your complaints and requests for service to the AMHS Operating Board at Write letters to the editors of local southeast newspapers and radio stations. Speak up and speak out until we finally get our Prince Rupert ferry service back.

Mary Lynne Dahl
Ward Cove, Alaska




Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.

Opinions expressed are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Sitnews.

Received April 12, 2023- Published April 15, 2023

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