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Fast ferry’s return uncertain as it leaves southeast Alaska

September 13, 2018

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The crew and passengers of a fast ferry celebrated the vessel’s possible last voyage in southeast Alaska over the weekend.

The ferry Fairweather traveled from Skagway and Haines to Juneau on Sunday, taking its last trip in the area for the season before continuing operation in the Prince William Sound, CoastAlaska reported this week.

Two new ferries of a different class are expected to enter the service of the Alaska Marine Highway next year, casting doubt on the future of the fast ferry.

During the Fairweather’s trip this week, the crew announced its “almost assuredly” last voyage in the southeast, recognizing the occasion by sharing a frosted cake, said Carl Brodersen, a passenger on board at the time.

The vessel began operations in 2004, generating excitement with its capability of reaching 32 knots, or 37 mph (60 kph). Its speed cut travel times in the southeast by about half.

The fast ferry’s fate is currently undecided. The two new ferries are slower but can hold more passengers and vehicles. They’re also more fuel-efficient and seaworthy, as well as less expensive to operate.

“Basically, we can’t keep the same ships running when you got two new ones coming in,” said John Falvey, the general manager of the Alaska Marine Highway System. “So we’re in the process of making those decisions, and we’ve not made those decisions yet.”

The decision is expected to be made when the first new vessel is delivered, Falvey said.

“We will need to take a very close look at what is the best fleet mix as far as service, as far as budgets and funding, to go forward from May 1,” Falvey said.

The Fairweather will stay in operation through the winter, connecting the communities of Cordova, Whittier and Valdez.

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Information from: KTOO-FM, http://www.ktoo.org

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