Open Letter: To Rep. Bill
Williams Re: AMHS
by Captain William
May 01, 2004
The Honorable Representative Bill Williams
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
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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