Prince Rupert shuts down dock used by Alaska Marine Highway

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2008

Problems with a dock used by the Alaska Marine Highway System in Prince Rupert, Canada, will force Alaska ferries to stop using the city-owned dock immediately, said Roger Wetherell, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

An Alaska ferry scheduled to arrive in Prince Rupert on Saturday was canceled. Today, the Matanuska will attempt to moor at an alternate dock.

"We've been authorized by BC Ferries to use their dock," he said.

The government-run BC Ferries is the provincial ferry system for British Columbia.

The Alaska ferry system needs to make sure its vessels fit the BC Ferries docks and the ramps work, Wetherell said.

"We've looked at all the drawings and ship diagrams," he said. "It's a very tight fit."

Wetherell estimated the chances were 50-50 that the alternate dock would work for the Alaska Marine Highway System.

"We think it will work," said Herb Pond, mayor of Prince Rupert.

He said the city has a good working relationship with BC Ferries, and it has been very helpful when they heard the city needed a place for Alaska ferries to dock.

"They just said, right away, 'Whatever you need, we'll make it happen,'" Pond said.

The moorage costs in Canada will remain the same and other expenses due to the change aren't expected to be significant, according to Alaska and Canadian officials.

Wetherell said the city provided the ferry system with a report Thursday afternoon detailing problems with the dock's structural integrity. Alaska Marine Highway managers quickly decided they could not use the dock until it was refurbished, and made the decision to look for an alternative location.

Pond said Prince Rupert hopes to have $1 million in repairs done by Memorial Day, when ferry traffic picks up on both systems.

Travelers scheduled to pass through Prince Rupert on Alaska ferries are being notified of the changes, when it's possible, Wetherell said.

"We're trying to contact everyone we can now," Wetherell said.

BC Ferries terminal is adjacent to the Alaska Marine Highway facility, and will be convenient for travelers, Pond said.

Both U.S. and Canadian customs are having to make some accommodations, he said.

"There are some technical issues," Pond said, but both agencies are willing to work with the city.

The city of Prince Rupert will handle installation of additional signs and fencing needed, he said.

Alaska may get to return the favor from BC Ferries in the fall. The provincial ferry system plans an upgrade to its dock and will be using the Alaska dock during that work, Pond said.

• Contact reporter PatForgey at 586-4816 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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