In our opinion: While they fight, Rupert loses

The Alaskan Marine Highway System (AMHS) is facing some tough decisions following massive cutbacks

As reported in this issue of The Prince Rupert Northern View, the Alaskan Marine Highway System (AMHS) is facing some tough decisions following massive cutbacks to the tune of $25.5 million in 2017 from its 2014 fiscal budget.

Four of AMHS’s 11 ferries are being laid up for the summer season and while they have committed to maintaining two scheduled sailings to Prince Rupert — down from four in previous years — there is absolutely no guarantee that might change.

AMHS spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow prefaced his comment with one word that should worry Prince Rupert — proposal.

“Last season, Prince Rupert saw ferry sailings effectively cut in half from four ports of call during the summer to two calls, and this next summer the proposal is to remain at two scheduled sailings per week,” said Woodrow.

Given the drastic budget cutbacks and the stagnation of the AMHS terminal revitilization in Prince Rupert due to American and Canadian government bickering over who will provide the steel, Woodrow’s comments  may not hold water in the upcoming months.

Nick Bowman of the Ketchikan Daily News recently reported on a town hall meeting held in the Alaskan community where AMHS brass were asking whether they should increase fees, reduce the fleet or cut routes.

Unfortunately for Prince Rupert, Bowman reported that Department of Transportation’s Michael Neussl, the deputy director overseeing the ferry system, made it clear who was on the chopping block.

“It’s Prince Rupert or Bellingham,” Neussl is reported to have told the town hall.

At that town hall meeting, Neussl made it clear that the terminal in Prince Rupert must be repaired and as long as that didn’t happen, the Canadian port call would most likely the one cut.

Whatever one thinks of the protectionist Buy America program that seems to be the biggest stumbling block — the point is moot.

There has to be a compromise. It’s their terminal and they want to use their material. So be it.

This fight has to stop.  There will be no winner.

But there certainly could be a loser — Prince Rupert.