The state ferry system has canceled the published sailings of the LeConte from today through Nov. 14 so a shipyard can make improvements required by the Coast Guard, state officials said today.
"The delay will have significant impacts throughout the system," said ferry system General Manager George Capacci.
The ferry Aurora and a privately owned catamaran will take up some of the slack in Panhandle sailings at a time of civic festivals, school sports travel and Native conventions.
The LeConte had been expected to resume its sailings today following a five-day, $220,000 routine maintenance overhaul at the Ketchikan shipyard. But that has been delayed until Nov. 14 while additional electrical work, required by the Coast Guard, is performed, Capacci said.
"The switchboards are getting extreme scrutiny," Capacci said.
The National Transportation Safety Board said in a report this fall that the Alaska Marine Highway System probably contributed to a switchboard fire on the ferry Columbia in June 2000 by ineffectively maintaining and inspecting the electrical switchboards.
Capacci said the LeConte switchboard had been running fine and wasn't part of the maintenance scheduled for this overhaul, but the Coast Guard said it wasn't up to its standards. The new work includes putting up more brackets to support thick electrical cables that run from the generators to the switchboard, he said.
Coast Guard inspectors and their supervisor in Ketchikan weren't available immediately for comment.
To partly compensate for the loss of the LeConte, Allen Marine is running a 140-passenger catamaran today and Saturday to take passengers from Juneau to the Haines Bald Eagle Festival.
The vessel departs the Allen Marine Dock at Auke Bay at 8 a.m. and runs to Haines, Skagway and Haines, returning to Juneau at 3:30 p.m. Passengers will board between 7 and 8 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. Parking will be provided at the ferry system's Auke Bay terminal, with van service to the Allen Marine Dock.
Meanwhile, the ferry system also has canceled all published sailings of the Aurora from today through Nov. 12 so it can serve on the LeConte run, which visits Hollis, Petersburg, Kake, Juneau, Hoonah, Tenakee, Angoon, Sitka, Ketchikan and Metlakatla.
The revised schedule will cause reduced service this weekend in Hollis and Metlakatla while nearby Kake is hosting an Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand Camp meeting, Capacci said.
"When you have a delay like this that's why it's pretty dramatic and painful and impacts a lot of people," Capacci said.
The Aurora's revised schedule differs from the published LeConte schedule. For information, call (800) 642-0066 or (907) 465-3941, or see the Web site www.alaska.gov/ferry.
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