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Open Letter: To Rep. Bill Williams Re: AMHS
by Captain William M. Hopkins


May 01, 2004

The Honorable Representative Bill Williams

Dear Sir:

Receiving new vessels of any kind is welcome news for the Alaska Marine Highway System. I also applaud your efforts to restore full funding to AMHS.

However, the Legislature has stated that "for every new vessel that comes online, an older vessel must be retired." The problem with this is the reduction in cargo carrying capacity AMHS will suffer as a result of replacing larger vessels with smaller vessels, regardless of how fast they may travel.

For example, the Fairweather is about to begin her career with AMHS this month. In June, the Taku is to be layed-up and eventually sold. The Taku can carry up to 80 vehicles, the Fairweather only 35. It is simple math - 80 versus 35. If I were vehicle #36 trying to board the Fairweather, I am left behind on the dock not going anywhere regardless of the Fairweather's speed.

This reduction in carrying capacity will hit home in the summer months. By the fact of not having the Taku or a like sized replacement vessel, Ketchikan stands to lose as much as 50% of her connection with Prince Rupert and the mainland - 6 sailing per week reduced to 4 and then only 3 when the Kennicott is on her cross Gulf voyages. That puts a crimp into the moving of everything from Ketchikan residents to tourists, containerized seafood products to Christmas package mail.

When the next small high speed ferry comes online for Southeast Alaska, another larger vessel must disappear. The cumulative effect will be the reduction in cargo carrying capacity overall. This is being done before one spade of dirt is turned over for a new road anywhere. High speed vessels will also be held hostage to the weather; they are more fragile and stability sensitive.

I believe that this will come home to roost on the Legistature's desks in the near future. I also believe that it is very short sighted.

Mainliner vessel capacities are what is needed. The founding fathers of AMHS had it correct. Small vessels and island hopping is not going to turn out as well as DOT planners suggest. As for me, I do not want to travel that way with my family, especially in the winter.
I continue to applaud your efforts to use Permanent Fund earnings to support state government operations. I suport POMV. The Permanent Fund was originally set up to fund government operations when the oil dried up. I remember well that this was the promise at the time of its founding.

Thank you for your consideration, and sincerely yours,

Captain William M. Hopkins
Ketchikan, AK - USA



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