The Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Malaspina being towed to a mooring in Ketchikan, Alaska on May 21. (File photo)

The Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Malaspina being towed to a mooring in Ketchikan, Alaska on May 21. (File photo)

Sailings between Ketchikan and Prince Rupert set to return next year

Legal and logistical hurdles remain to be resolved

The restart of ferry sailings between Prince Rupert and Ketchikan, Alaska, two years without service is set for May 1, American House Representative Dan Ortiz said, on Dec. 2.

“Alaska Marine Highway System have stated both to the media as well as to legislators like myself, that their goal, their deadline that they’re working with is to return to Prince Rupert by May 1 of 2022,” Ortiz, told The Northern View. “They have put placeholders in their schedule for that to happen.”

Mayor Lee Brain welcomed the news, and said, as of Dec. 3, he does not have all the details on how it will unfold.

“Tentatively, this is great news for us and we’ve been working hard on this issue for the past couple of years, including meeting with the governor’s office and hosting a delegation of Alaska officials here in Rupert in late 2019 to help resolve the issues,” Brain said.

“I can’t say for certain what the exact status of the situation is, as there are both an Alaska component and a federal component regarding pre-clearance,” the mayor said.

A key component is the right to carry arms on the vessels, under the 2019 Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine (LRMA) Transport Preclearance. Distinct adaptions are being called for between Canada and the U.S.

“Specific issues like having a safe where U.S. customs folks can lockup their weapons overnight so that they don’t need to carry their weapons into the community of Prince Rupert if they’re staying overnight,”

There is also the issue of the AMHS ferry terminal in Prince Rupert boarding ramp needing to be replaced.

Alternatively, or the best long-term solution, is to share the BC Ferries terminal which is immediately adjacent to the AMHS terminal, Ortiz said.

Priot to the cancellation of the ferry service between the two countries, there had been communication between BC Ferries and AMHS about sharing the terminal.

“That was all verbal and I don’t know necessarily whether that’s an agreement written in stone,” Ortiz said.

Deborah Marshall, BC Ferries executive director and public affairs marketing & customer experience, told The Northern View in an email BC Ferries welcomes the return of AMHS and they will be using the BC Ferries terminal “as they have in the past.”

Alaska Marine Highway Systems did not provide comment prior to publication

Norman Galimski | Journalist
Send Norman email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter