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MV Tustumena spending extra time in the shipyard, causes ferry service delays to Kodiak Island

Vigor Shipyard in Ketchikan where ferries have been overhauled for the Alaska Marine Highway System.
(Ward Mace/AMHS)
Vigor Shipyard in Ketchikan where ferries have been overhauled for the Alaska Marine Highway System.

The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) announced Wednesday, April 24 that the MV Tustumena ferry will be delayed coming out of its annual maintenance or overhaul.

That means the earliest it will sail to Kodiak Island is the evening of May 9, when it’s scheduled to stop in Port Lions and Ouzinkie as well as Kodiak, departing Homer at 8:45 p.m. Originally it was expected to be back in service by the end of this month, April 30.

The marine highway system’s Director Craig Tornga told the public during a Zoom call this week, during the 2045 AMHS long range plan public meeting, that the Tusty, along with other ferries, is spending a lot of time in the shipyard this season.

“[We] found a lot of steel wastage in several areas on the Tustumena,” Tornga said. “The struts, the strut supports, cracks in pitting on the leading edge of the rudders, wastage in the coolant boxes. A lot of repairs to the turntable on the car deck.”

Tornga said the department has the money to cover the extra repairs, but additional steel work on multiple ferries, including the Tustumena, was not originally in the budget. Not all of the identified repairs are being done now though, according to Tornga. The Coast Guard has allowed AMHS to defer some of the work on the Tustumena to be completed next year.

Separately, a different sailing schedule for this year’s Crab Fest over Memorial Day weekend, May 23-27, has also been announced. The Tusty will no longer stop in Port Lions or Ouzinkie ahead of that event on May 23 and 24 as originally scheduled and instead will go straight from Homer to Kodiak and back on May 23.

But, to accommodate the surplus of ferry-goers sailing during Crab Fest, there will also be an extra run from Homer to Kodiakover the weekend. That’s according to local staff at the Kodiak ferry terminal.

Meanwhile, the Tustumena Replacement Vessel [TRV] project has funding to move forward to build a new, hybrid-powered ferry by 2027, which would officially retire the 60-year-old Tusty. Sam Dapcevich, a spokesperson for AMHS, said the project has yet to go out to bid as of Thursday, April 25 and AMHS is working out the final details with the Federal Transit Authority. The total cost of the project is unknown at this time, although he estimates the final price tag could top $300 million.