Scheduled repairs on the Tustumena are taking longer than expected. The delay is forcing fishers to find different modes of transport for their crews and cargo.
The Tustumena Ferry’s return to service has been delayed again, this time until August fifteenth. That date has been pushed back multiple times.
The delay comes as fishing season is beginning. People and cargo that would usually come to the area by ferry are being forced to find other, more costly methods of transportation. Rodney Intagliata is the interim mayor of Chignik Bay, one of the cities served by the ferry. He says residents are frustrated by the delay.
“Everybody’s a little disgruntled about it; I wouldn’t say a little either. This has been going on for about four or five years where there’s been problems with the Tustumena. I think that the ferry’s should be a little embarrassed that they didn’t have a contingency plan in effect for an emergency like this, knowing that the people down here and on the Aleutians rely on that ferry system.”
The delay is due to repairs on the ferry taking longer than expected. Meadow Bailey is the Communications Director for the Alaska Department of Transportation. She says the Tustumena’s problems are normal for a boat of this age.
“The Tustumena was in for scheduled repairs late this spring and as it was undergoing inspection we started to uncover areas where there was wasted steel, which is essentially where, areas where the steel is not the required thickness anymore due to rusting and pocking.”
A vessel to replace the 53 year old Tustumena has been designed but funding is awaiting a vote on the twenty-eighteen state budget. If funding is approved construction would take five to six years.