Marine highway suffers from state's decisions

Letters to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The schedule is getting worse and long-term ferry customers are now feeling the effects. Due to the fuel-guzzling fast ferry and the higher cost of fuel, passengers are having to pay a fuel surcharge. The cost of fuel for the Fairweather is at least double that of the Taku; it doesn't hold as many passengers or cars; the food is all prepackaged and full of preservatives; and it most likely won't be able to run with strong winds and high seas this winter.

It is also not certified to run after dark, and we all know that is most of the time in the winter. It has already lost an engine after only three months of service. The expected life of the Fairweather is only about 10 years - the Taku is more than 40 years old and in good enough shape to last another 20. The main reason this administration wants fast ferries is because they only require a quarter of the employees. What they think they are saving in wages and health care benefits they're spending in fuel. So, instead of the money going back into the local economy in the form of groceries, rent, taxes, etc., from wages, it's all going up in smoke - or into the pockets of the "good 'ole boys" in the oil business.

This administration is so intent on the Alaska Marine Highway System needing to pay for itself (while no other highway system is expected to) that they are purposely arranging the schedule so that it doesn't make money. The Taku was doing well last summer with the Golden Circle traffic from Haines to Skagway. Now, that has been eliminated because the Fairweather can't do that connection and still make their "fast" schedule. The Taku has also spent entire days tied up at the dock because they took over the LeConte schedule and don't have the stern ramp that makes it possible to go into Pelican and Angoon.

When a purser offered a revised revenue-generating schedule to management right after the LeConte ran aground, it was determined that it would be too much trouble to revise the schedule. Was this because without good service Alaskans would begin to scream for more roads, placing the system right into the hands of those who are lobbying for roads and for privatization? Unfortunately, the Taku didn't make much money this summer because the Web site wasn't updated and most people didn't realize that she was taking the LeConte's place. The Taku was originally supposed to be laid up June 1, however, the event that took place in May called for the Taku to be kept in service, proving its flexibility invaluable.

One has to ask who was responsible for making these decisions.

Sandra Wardlow


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