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Recent headlines incorrectly stated that the Marine Transportation Advisory Board (MTAB) proposed privatizing the ferry system and modeling the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) after the British Columbia (B.C.) ferry system. As the chair of MTAB I feel the need to set the record straight.
The goal of MTAB since our inception has been to advise the DOT commissioner on how to provide better ferry service while reducing the need for state subsidy funds. To accomplish this we must look for ways to operate the system more efficiently. At our meeting last week in Juneau, Deputy Commissioner Tom Briggs outlined a plan that would do the following two things: First, it would reorganize the management structure of AMHS to follow a more business-like model. Second, it would examine various methods of improving efficiencies in the Marine Highway System. In this process everything will be looked at, including marketing, revenue enhancement and cost containment. While this could include examining the possibility of privatization of certain functions, MTAB did not vote to encourage privatization of any part of the AMHS at this time. We did vote to pursue the development of a plan presented to us.
We also did not vote to encourage emulation of the B.C. ferries model. During the meeting Tom Briggs was asked specifically if AMHS was planning to adopt the B.C. ferries model, to which Briggs replied no. We do hope to learn from B.C. ferries' experiences, good and bad, but that is simply smart management and very different from seeking to adopt their system.
The AMHS must adopt a more commercial model to achieve the goal of reducing subsidy needs while improving levels of service, but we are still exploring methods to reach this goal and have not voted on specifics. I hope this will help clarify our actions at last week's meeting. We look forward to assisting the department in retooling our Marine Highway so that it may continue to provide their essential services to our communities.
Marine Transportation Advisory Board Chair