Alaska ferry malfunction leaves passengers scrambling
The Alaska Marine Highway system is working to clear a backlog of passengers and vehicles trying to get to from Homer to Kodiak following an electrical problem on the Kennicott ferry in Kodiak Friday.
The Marine Highway had to replace a processor in order to operate the ferry's elevator -- used to load vehicles onto the vessel, according to Department of Transportation spokeswoman Aurah Landau.
Landau says it took repair crews more than 30 hours to get the elevator running again. By then, DOT had to cancel a scheduled round-trip voyage to Homer.
That left passengers scrambling for a way to get themselves and their vehicles between the two communities.
"I think when people make business plans or personal plans based on transportation, they expect it to happen. But the ferry system has been cut $29 million since 2013 to today and has had to take two vessels out of commission. So there's just not a lot of flexibility, and when there's a weather delay or a mechanical issue, then it's felt by the customers," Landau said by phone Sunday, adding that the DOT looked into sending another vessel to make up the voyage, but that option was not "logistically feasible."
Landau says the DOT hopes between a sailing Sunday night and another voyage scheduled for April 21, it can accommodate anyone trying to get between the two communities.
"We had heard that there were commercial fishermen and some commercial operators, some construction, agriculture and others who were relying on the ferry to get them over to Kodiak to stage for their summer season. And of course, had they not been able to get out that would have been a really significant impact to their businesses," Landau added, noting that the Marine Highway waived cancelation and unaccompanied vehicle fees in an effort to give passengers more options.
Monday, Landau said 100 passengers and 55 vehicles were able to depart Sunday-- 11 of those 55 were standby/waitlist-- however, not all vehicles were able to make the trip. Those unaccompanied vehicles will travel either April 21 or 22.
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