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AMHS Ending Service to Prince Rupert
AMHS is unable to meet requirements for U.S. Customs in Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert Mayor: Time to resolve issue


September 06, 2019
Friday PM

(SitNews) Anchorage, Alaska – The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) announced Wednesday it is ending service to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, effective Oct. 1, 2019.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is requiring AMHS to secure a Canadian law enforcement presence to protect CBP’s personnel in Prince Rupert while inspection tasks are performed. All avenues for local law enforcement were pursued, but AMHS was not able to secure the staff necessary to fulfill this requirement. The new requirement specifies a Canadian law enforcement presence with the ability to make arrests in Canada, which is not a duty that AMHS staff are able to perform.

Last spring, CBP began requiring a Canadian law enforcement presence in Prince Rupert. AMHS was granted a waiver through Sept. 30. Over the summer, AMHS worked with the City of Prince Rupert and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to meet this requirement, but neither of these entities have staff available to perform the duties necessary to comply with the new requirement.

Statement Regarding the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS):

Prince Rupert City Mayor Lee Brain released a prepared statement Thursday regarding this announcement by the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Mayor Brain stated:

"The current situation with the Alaska Marine Highway System is unfortunately complex. There are multiple jurisdictions in which this issue overlaps. 

I'm heading up to Juneau, Alaska the week of Sep 16 to meet with top Alaskan officials in the Department of Transportation and the Governor's office. A variety of solutions have been identified that could see a permanent resolution to this issue, and we have been collaborating with various different organizations and institutions that are involved with this matter. 

As this is a multi-jurisdiction, multi-stakeholder problem that spans two different countries, I can't fully speak to exactly what those potential solutions are as they are still in exploration and evolution. 

However, for clarity's sake, the issues as I can see them are as follows: 

1. The previous and current Alaskan administration have initiated a review of the entire Alaska Marine Highway System. The Alaskan government has been going through significant budget challenges the past few years, and currently a few selected routes have been identified for potential closure due to those budget constraints. Prince Rupert is one of those routes being explored, but no decision has been made as of yet as far as the budget goes. Potential solutions have been identified to help with operational costs for the Prince Rupert ferry route. 

2. There are Federal jurisdiction issues regarding the structural upgrades that are required for the AMHS dock in Prince Rupert. These upgrades are needed in order to continue the route to Prince Rupert. Potential solutions have been identified that could solve the capital investment issue required by the Alaskan government into Prince Rupert, as well as solve the Federal issues surrounding the Buy American program that mandates non-local purchasing for these upgrades. 

3. An issue that has emerged more recently are new regulations by the U.S. Customs and Border Agency, which now require armed guards be present at the time of sailing in Prince Rupert - however, the U.S. Government cannot employ American guards on Canadian soil - which instead will require armed RCMP officers to attend. As this is a U.S. Government requirement, those costs must be covered by their government. The City of Prince Rupert explored all options to provide armed support to customs for the Alaska Marine Highway System. Unfortunately, given our remote location and existing police capacity, it would have necessitated hiring additional full time police officers, an expense that neither the Alaska Marine Highway System or the City are able to support financially. 

We've been attempting to organize a multi-jurisdictional meeting in collaboration with my colleague Robert Venables from the Southeast Alaska Conference - however with the amount of departments and people involved, it has proven difficult to get everyone in the same room. The good news is there are many people who are working on this issue at the moment with a true desire to find real solutions. 

With all that being said, I don't believe this is the end of the ferry service to Prince Rupert. I believe this issue can be solved. The demand for cross-border tourism and potential trade opportunities continue to be at the forefront of this conversation. I'm looking forward to my meetings in Alaska, and believe now is the time to solve this issue to ensure long term ferry service between our two nations."



Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Alaska Department of Transportation

City of Prince Rupert - BC - Canada




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