Tustumena return to service delayed further

The Alaska Marine Highway System announced on Monday that the return to service of the M/V Tustumena has been delayed further.

The ferry serving Homer, Seldovia, Kodiak and the Aleutian Chain will not return until Aug. 15. More wasted steel was discovered in the engine room and repairs will require additional time at the Vigor Ketchikan Shipyard.

The Tustumena went in for its annual overhaul on March 13 and was originally scheduled to return to service on May 27. In early May, damaged steel was found in the engine room and the Tustumena’s return to service was pushed back to July 18.

With this recent discovery of additional wasted steel, AMHS anticipates U.S. Coast Guard approval for the Tustumena’s return to service departing Homer at 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15.

This delay impacts communities in Southwest Alaska and along the Aleutian chain. Usually, there are 10 trips scheduled along the Aleutian chain each year. Because of these delays, there will now be three remaining trips this year, with the first chain trip commencing on Aug. 22.

The Tustumena is 53-years-old. A replacement vessel has been designed, but is awaiting construction funding in the pending fiscal year 2018 capital budget.

In the budget now under consideration in the Alaska Legislature, Gov. Bill Walker included a capital request to build a ferry to replace the Tustumena. He requested an appropriation of $22 million, the state’s share of the $244 million cost of a new ferry. The $222 million balance will come from federal transportation funds.

AMHS staff is contacting affected passengers. For more information, please call your local terminal or the AMHS central reservations office at 907-465-3941 or toll free at 800-642-0066. An updated schedule will be made available online at FerryAlaska.com.

Coastal Transportation, based in Seattle, continues to be an option for AMHS customers impacted by the Tustumena delay. Coastal Transportation can accommodate vehicles on an as-able basis, at the same cost as AMHS, transporting from Homer to Kodiak and to Aleutian destinations. Coastal Transportation can be reached at 800-544-2580 or 206-282-9979.