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Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, July 03, 2006

Columbia sidelined in Ketchikan; 380 making travel plans

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KETCHIKAN - The state ferry Columbia was sidelined Sunday at the Ketchikan shipyard for repairs, and Alaska Marine Highway System staff members were finding alternative travel means for 380 passengers, officials said.

It wasn't immediately clear how long repairs would take.

"The safety and comfort of our customers are our primary concern right now and we are going to do everything possible to give these folks options to get them where they need to go," said Capt. John Falvey, AMHS general manager. "We have ships going north and south all week and so we hope the disruption in their travel plans is only temporary."

The Columbia was carrying 380 passengers and 100 vehicles when one of its four generators malfunctioned about 3 a.m. Saturday, starting a small fire. The Columbia then lost power to one of its two engines as it traveled through Seymour Narrows on its northbound sailing from Bellingham, Wash.

The Columbia was taken to Duncan Bay in Canada for repair before the Canadian Transport Safety Board cleared the ship to proceed to Ketchikan.

Officials completed a more complete assessment of its mechanical problems after arriving Sunday morning in Ketchikan.

AMHS staff were providing meals and lodging aboard the Columbia while passengers wait for alternate sailings.

Several passengers and vehicles on Sunday boarded the ferry Taku on its sailing to Prince Rupert, B.C. Officials said more passengers were expected to leave as AMHS ships arrive in Ketchikan during their scheduled stops.

The Columbia is a mainline ferry with capacity to carry 499 passengers and 134 vehicles. It has been in the AMHS fleet since 1974. It underwent a 6-week scheduled overhaul in March 2006.



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