While I certainly believe that the system could be run more efficiently by anybody else than who is doing it now, I do have a couple concerns. The main one being...
What will happen to the retirement funds? People have been planning and putting into these funds for many many years and are looking forward to continuing to grow these accounts. Will SBS, PERS, Deferred Comp still be available to contribute to?
I haven't seen any documentation discussing these options. It's almost like the State is trying to brush this subject under the rug. If there IS something I could look at, I would much appreciate a link.
Thanks for taking the time for me, and many other vessel employees that are wondering the same thing.
Submitted: May 01, 2018
I think we know the answers to some of these questions, and have for some time. The management at AMHS must be given the authority to make change based on normal business practices.
Shoreside managers should be allowed, or tasked, to focus on cost reduction, efficiency, and retention. I am pretty sure that managers at AMHS do not have a solid understanding of what the organization's mission is or how exactly they, personally, fit into it. There is no shared vision or even defined goals, things which should be clearly communicated from top management in order for all employees to understand their roles and create a unity of effort.
Cost savings should focus on the bigger slices of the pie. We learned in undergraduate school decades ago that good management will go after the biggest variable costs in order to save the most while not attacking employee wages. We were taught that attacking employee wages was a sign of poor management, because it requires the least amount of actual management.
With participative planning and direct management, altering the vessel schedules will yield the greatest gains. The gains will come in fuel savings, accrued maintenance reductions, and increased revenue due to customer satisfaction and loyalty. I have personally been involved in a study which involved decreasing vessel speed slightly, maintaining schedule, and realizing savings of approximately 200-300 gallons per day. Annualized, these savings converted to dollar amounts were very significant. The reports on these significant cost savings and recommendations by vessel management to continue and to refine the improved efficiencies were, dishearteningly, ignored. The truth of the matter is though, that there are numerous cost savings initiatives available if only vessel managers and shoreside managers could improve communications and be allowed to implement them. Centralized control is only valuable if those at the central office have a complete understanding of the system they are managing.
One of the worst decisions recently by AMHS was to take the vessel Chenega out of service. If you investigate the cause of this, you will find another huge driver of inefficiency at AMHS, namely, a lot a decisions are personality driven rather than guided by business acumen.Submitted: March 03, 2018
Consider contracting with landing craft operators and or cargo transporters to provide augmented scheduled cargo and vehicle transport services from main hub communities to/from smaller outlying satellite communities. This may provide a more cost effective and efficient alternative to more expensive fully scheduled ferry runs. As an example, instead of regularly scheduling a ferry from Kodiak city to the villages of old harbor, Larsen bay, Ouzinkie, and port lions, contract to provide landing craft services in between these communities to reduce the number of full ferry services. travelers would need to fly between ports and pick up their vehicles and supplies or arrange for them to be loaded and picked up. Or pay for special handling and storage, but this may be more desirable than significantly reduced ferry services.Submitted: February 27, 2018
Raising fares to recap expenses isn't going to work if the goal is to provide a public transportation system that is functional as such and reasonably affordable, and not some for profit entity that would please the politicians. Now it is starting to be cheaper to fly to Juneau from Haines than take the boat, particularly in the winter when the next sailing isn't for upwards of a week factoring in hotels, meals etc.
We need to shorten this leg of the run to Haines & Skagway by building a terminal out the road at Cascade pt in Berners Bay. Then run a day boat north at least once a day, every day and in the summer perhaps a couple runs a day a few times a week if there is sufficient demand which there will be if the schedule is maintained and fares are reasonable. End the northern leg of the mainliners in Auke Bay and provide a bus for walk ons heading to and coming from HNS to make connections at Berners Bay on foot. Making it work for the people using it is key,otherwise it is a half hour flight and Seaplanes does it pretty reliably weather permitting.Submitted: February 17, 2018
I have taken the Ferry from Haines, to Bellingham, Wa.in December of 2017.
I was not happy with how the agent that took my reservation. He did not explain that my pet would not be in the cabin with me. My Cat was in the car the Whole four and a half days of the trip. It was very cold in the bottom of the ship, and my pet was extremely stressed. I would not Ever recommend doing this to Anyone that loves their pet. It was ridiculous to go down to the cargo hold, every four, to 5 hours to spend time with my pet,and tend to his needs through out the trip.
I feel that they didn't really think of the stress on the animal. He had one accident in His large dog kennel, due to the 30 foot seas. Thank God they had washing facilities on board! I did not sleep from worrying about Him.
I will say that Jennie, and Shaun were extremely kind, and tried to help me with my anxiety over the separation from my pet. And, they were very compassionate to me. This Ferry journey was Not cheap, 1,934.00.
I would not recommend this form of transportation to anyone with pets. It's just cruel. Sorry.Submitted: January 25, 2018
With all the cruise ship industries beating our doors down, I cannot understand why AMHS cannot compete with these lines similar to Hurtigruten in Norway. I have utilized Alaska ferries for 30 years and have also ridden the Hurtigruten along the Norwegian coast and worked for Holland America in both Caribbean and Alaskan (and transit) theaters. Our system is in shambles because the mindset is that it losing money. Well, so does Hurtigruten, and like Alaska, they subsidize with their oil revenues. It is a top flight system that offers some of the best scenery and services on the planet. Why cannot AMHS do the same.
Specifically, I would beef up the schedules--people will not utilize a boat system with erratic schedules. Summer should boast two sailings per week. Put on white tablecloths and hire people who smile and understand service. Put on a quality restaurant service serving local fresh catch, add music, a naturalist that holds lectures. Open the bars and tune the piano (and hire musicians). Finally....advertise! Market our wonderful scenery. Market layovers with each of the towns so passengers can see our country and resume their voyage on the next boat. The inside passage is a priceless experience and it's currently being squandered.
Our politicians need to realize that this is a marketable commodity--more than an extension of the asphalt system elsewhere in the State. (Highways don't make money either--they are also subsidized.) Our ferries should be full to capacity 12 month a year (passengers, cars and freight) with runs from both Seattle and Bellingham. What an opportunity squandered.Submitted: January 21, 2018
The fast ferries broke the back of the AMHS: breakdowns, unable to deal with Alaskan weather and political malpractice on the part of management and the Alaska Legislature. Two legislators went to BC and asked if the fast ferries were a good fit for the Pacific Northwest. They said no. The design and start up, plus the fueling cost did not make it with the few passengers it carried. Shutting down the bars was foolish as well. The LeConte is too small to run in Lynn Canal during the winter months much like the Chenega. The mid-management plus limited maintenance, not the crew created this debacle.Submitted: January 17, 2018
just got into town from Bellingham. it was 5days of riding, the food was excellence and I noticed the crew liked their jobs they were friendly, but it seemed like everybody had the same thing to say which was"thats the way upstairs thinks now" referring to management. it sounds like there is not a problem with the crew its way up in the head office. I do have one idea and that is back when senator Robin Taylor was around he used to say if we got Sitka on its own run so a mainliner would not have to go there we would save money time and problary wouldn't have to make cuts and of course all the business people laughed at him. now look where we are at. if you had a small ferry that went from Hoonah to Sitka to Angoon To Hoonah continually then mainliners would stop by Hoonah north and south picking up people, no more 12 hour runs and layover going to sitka but maybe a small ferry every other day. I pick Hoonah because they are town that wants business they could problary get a hotel and restaurants. maybe they have it now or maybe even Juneau. it seems like its the ferry service or southeast conference who does not want people from Sitka to make shopping trips to Juneau. something is wrong here. it takes 5 days from Bellingham to Sitka and 5000dollars. its 2017 and were like a third world country here in Sitka. somebody needs to tell Sitka were holding up the show here everybody has to suffer 12 hours of their life to Sitka plus no cell service. anyway Robin Taylor had an idea that could work it just depends on whether you want to give out tough love. younger people here in Sitka would not mind service with a hub in Hoonah but the old hippies in this town think nothing can change so we just run the service into the ground.thanks mike svensonSubmitted: January 03, 2018
Make the ferries and their schedules more user friendly so people can book a trip that doesn't turn into a nightmare. It is currently difficult to plan a trip because of the schedules.
Because of the Rupert schedule we have had to drive via Skagway or take the plane to Seattle for our last four trips south.
Departing in Rupert at 3 or 4 AM is not an option for many including us. Sitting in the cold rain in Juneau for two hours in the middle of the night with just a few cars to board and no more early boarding has not been an improvement.
I know the Sitka route is difficult but going to and from Sitka now requires flying one way unless you stay several days. Many Sitka folks used the ferry to shop in Juneau. That no longer works for them.
Every ferry passing Petersburg and Wrangell stops there. Having traveled the inside passage since the very beginnings of the Marine Highway I see very few people board and depart there. Some trips no one got on or off. Does the ferry really need to stop every trip past these towns? Sitka, a much larger community, gets a fraction of their service and they manage.
Submitted: December 08, 2017
We ship semi-trailers full of freight to Gustavus every week of the year (we spend about $60,000/year with AMHS). We also handle the anchor lines for the arriving and departing vessels under a contract between AMHS and our company. So, since AMHS started servicing Gustavus 7 years ago, we’ve had a lot of exposure to the operating inefficiencies of the ferries. As many times as we’ve tried to bring some of these issues before the AMHS management, little has changed. And though they ask the public for input (and we provide it), the input seems to mean little.
As the current owner of several small businesses and a 25 year history of working for large corporations before that, it is obvious to me what is wrong with the ferry system and why it will always be too expensive to operate under its current structure. Here’s just a few observations. We could provide many examples:
(1) Excessive crew size. An example: We were told that the Coast Guard was requiring the doubling of the number of deckhands on the LeConte for safety purposes. But if they require this extra crew for emergencies, then rather than hiring more deckhands, why not train other staff for emergencies? It is painful to see the deckhands tripping over each other because there are simply too many of them for the limited positions on the deck.
(2) Decision making seems to be based on pull, politics or momentum rather than sound economic judgements. While we’ve fought for years to get additional voyages (the Gustavus decks are often full and turning away traffic. According to the LeConte crews, Gustavus runs more full than any other port they serve), somehow Sitka was getting the LeConte pulled off the northern panhandle to service it for weekly runs that were virtually empty. As another example: For two years we’ve asked AMHS to provide a different schedule for Gustavus (Thursday and Saturday instead of Monday and Wednesday) due to the severe constraints of servicing our robust summer hospitality business with our current schedule. Twice a year, when AMHS asked for feedback for the schedules, we provided it. Our attempt to persuade has been unsuccessful despite our belief that the economics weighed heavily in our favor. In last week’s conference call, I point-blank asked the scheduler why we were not being heard on this matter and was surprised to learn that the other communities that would also have to change to accommodate our request were more senior than Gustavus (they had been serviced longer than Gustavus) and therefore, our request could not be considered.
(3) Forfeiting high revenue full voyages for low revenue, lightly loaded voyages in response to ports asking for dedicated voyages for sports games and special meetings and events. When there was a flush budget and extra ships to handle these special events, AMHS could afford to offer this service. However, now without extra ships, not to mention the limited budget, taking scheduled voyages offline to service these special events is not only killing revenue, it’s killing the communities whose economy is based on getting timely freight transported and who are now stranded without service because their scheduled ferry was redirected to a non-essential function. The diminished schedule then creates backlogs because voyages are full for weeks afterwards. For instance, during our busiest freight season last April, Gustavus lost three scheduled voyages for three weeks in a row for these “special events”. And with only half as many voyages available for those critical three weeks, all remaining voyages were full for weeks before and weeks afterwards. Our company had 8 semi-trailers backed up in Juneau and Seattle awaiting deck space on the few remaining voyages because of this decision. AMHS schedulers did eventually allow us to load 6 semi-trailers on the Pelican run as a means of reducing our backlog. That unscheduled stop in Gustavus saved us from a major catastrophe, but the question remains, can we really afford to be making decisions for basketball teams or community events that make little sense when viewed from an economic perspective? Does it make sense to kill one community’s economy to provide a dedicated run to another community’s sporting event when those travelers could just as well travel to those sporting events by air? (that’s just what happened last April when the LeConte dropped the Gustavus voyage to travel all the way down to pick up a sports team only to learn that the team had already flown to the event by the time they got there!)
These shortcomings are common knowledge to all of us who work in the field. The crews, the customers, the business people who have first-hand experience with AMHS operations are well aware of how paralyzed and politically motivated the decision process is in upper management.
Our company has taken these matters and others all the way up to the deputy commissioner and have found similar illogical responses. What drives their decisions seem to have little to do with either the economics of the communities or the economics of the ferry system. It is not being run with an eye on the bottom line. It needs to be operated more like we in business do where every decision has financial consequences and the survival of the enterprise depends on making good, sound decisions every day.
Submitted: November 19, 2017