Another delay for Tustumena

KODIAK — The state ferry Tustumena’s return to service has been delayed once again.

Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Jerome Selby said Thursday that the ferry will remain out of service until at least mid-October, the fifth delay since the ferry entered drydock for repairs last November.

“We will continue to have service from the Kennicott,” Selby said, hoping to alleviate concerns of residents that Kodiak Island will lose all connections to the mainland.

Selby received the news in an email from Alaska Department of Transportation Commissioner Pat Kemp, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

Kemp’s email said Coast Guard inspectors found that steel plating put on the ship at Seward Ship’s Drydock was too thin, according to Coast Guard inspectors, and that plating will be to be cut out and replaced with thicker material.

This is the fifth time the state has announced the delay of the Tustumena’s return to service since it went into the Seward drydock for repairs last November, for what was to have been a six-month stay.

Seward Ship’s Drydock began incurring liquidated damages July 12 at $20,000 a day, but there is a cap on total damages at $600,000.

“Regardless the Shipyard is still under contract to deliver the vessel on time. The exact amount that the shipyard will be responsible for won’t be known until after the project is complete and all work orders have been submitted by the shipyard and reviewed by AMHS (Alaska Marine Highway System),” said transportation department spokesman Jeremy Woodrow in an email to The Associated Press.

The delays were necessary when extensive corrosion was found on the ship and had to be corrected, the Daily Mirror reported. Then, Coast Guard inspectors found faulty welds throughout the ferry.

The lack of a dedicated ferry for Kodiak has played havoc with this year’s tourist season. The state has sent the ferry Kennicott to pick up the slack, but the ferry schedule has been erratic.

Kodiak Island Borough Assembly member Aaron Griffin suggested at Thursday night’s meeting that it might be time for the borough to consider its own transportation options separate from the state.

“It is time for us to take a very hard look at how we connect our communities and whether the state is a viable partner in that,” he said.

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