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Alaska Marine highway thoughts

By A. M. Johnson


December 19, 2017
Tuesday PM


Some interesting community member thoughts have been brought to my attention and worthy I believe, of public discussion.

The first is the status of inquiry as to the amount of diesel fuel remains on board the ferry TAKU sitting in Ward Cove awaiting sale confirmation. I am not the only soul that has wondered, we who pass by the ferry on Tongass highway, have noticed the water line of the ferry as being in a Normal level indicating possible full or near full fuel tanks. Not knowing the capacity of the tank, but having an idea of fuel requirements, one could say in excess of 100,000 gallons of tankage. At the State bid price (Unknown) of an estimated under $2.00 per gallon, it is easy to picture a value total higher than the last bid price in line to win the ferry ownership. One hope is that this question fines that the State has taken that under consideration and has removed as much fuel as possible distributing it to the remaining fleet ferries.

The second point is the validity of running the Bellingham ferry at the near empty at times during the winter. The common discussion rotates around the extremely high cost of tickets/accommodations for a booking between Alaska ports and Bellingham reflected in the conversation on the lack of ridership during the winter. The common discussion results in should the state make a decision to drop Bellingham in total and concentrate on Prince Rupert as the Southern terminal for the system. This position given as the ferry system was originally designed for Alaskan to interstate travel with an access to a highway connection to the lower 48 (Note: Hyder as a Southern terminal also comes into discussion). Seems the crutch of Prince Rupert is the need for a large fiscal reconstruction, its related cost and the current dust up over the use of foreign steel over the US position of US steel in the major renovation that is required in the Rupert Terminal. With President Trump s efforts in the use of American First US steel in any federal funded projects, this is more a challenge than once thought under previous administrations. It may be, the decision to use Prince Rupert (or Hyder) as the end of the line is due sooner than later.

An argument in favor offered is the Canadian government maintains the roads in a most superior way under winter circumstance during adverse road condition The volume of Inter B.C. commercial traffic is such that keeping the roads open is of the highest priority for the B.C. road department. While it is winter conditions, the fact that travel is and will be possible allows Alaskans to come and go at a cost within the family budget over the current luxury cost of the Bellingham booking. Too, the valid argument regarding the wear and tear on the ferries for the extended distance required on the Bellingham run with a aging fleet should be of consideration.

As to the summer volume being Profitable out of Bellingham, well and good for the tourists, however forcing the traffic into Prince Rupert in the summer months will provide these visiting tourist an exceptional opportunity to extend their viewing of a neighboring foreign country, a two-for-one complete with border vigilance at both ends.

The addition of a second ferry during peak months to Prince Rupert will re-establish levels of prior years with regained full capacity making the voyages profitable once again.

The third marine highway concern, (rumor?) is that the second ferry scheduled for construction in the local Vigor shipyard has fallen behind to the point that Vigor is anticipating the need to construct some of the modules for the second ferry in a facility down South (Portland?) and barging them to Ketchikan. Somehow this runs counter to the pledge of Vigor and the State that construction of the two ferries would be carried out in total here in Ketchikan providing the needed employment locally.

Were this rumor to have legs, the first question that comes or came up in discussion was the awareness by the state, and work towards mediation with Vigor that would allow the contract terms be open and an agreement made that would fine the second ferry constructed as we the public understood, here in Ketchikan. To do other wise will confirm to many that a corporation's bond along with politicians with a community, is worthless.

The last is a personal observation regarding the discussion of eliminating the Jones Act, an act that has American shipping be done in American registered ships and manned by U.S. Citizens ( I think I have this pretty correct). This effects ship building as well, therefore, given that the act were to be eliminated, would or could American shipyards, such as Vigor, compete with foreign shipyards? Would America have to rely on foreign shipyards to produce American fighting ships exposing secrets to foreign oversight?

In line with these few of many questions, is the secondary question then of the second ferry. With the Jones Act out would either of the ferries be built here, and in the overall, if not, then the need for the shipyard as it relates to Alaska vessels that require shipyard work would have to travel to the nearest competitive yards of a foreign country

Not an expert by any means on the Jones Act, there are two distinct discussions in play. Each has its good point. Until those points have played out in an arena that inquisitive public desires, the act should remain in force.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on this and the prior subjects of recent conversations.

A.M. Johnson
Ketchikan, Alaska

About: Have learned to live my life and forget my age-anonymous


Editor's Note:

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


Received December 17, 2017 - Published December 19, 2017

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