It has been made extremely clear the need of a change in our current ferry system functions. The ferry system has been a huge part of my life growing up in Cold Bay, Alaska. It serves as a crucial link between Southwest Communities. There is a strong concern for the future of the service in our region. Important focuses our community would like to see are stability, consistency and an increase in services to the communities. There is a lot of potential for the ferry service in Cold Bay. The popularity in eco-tourism and want for authentic travel experiences is growing exponentially. I firmly believe that if we had a dependable system in this region we could truly develop our visitor industry. Cold Bay is home to the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, which has always been a huge attraction for the Southwest ferry visitors. Each year the refuge tours have been easily filled. I have always advocated to anyone interested in visiting the Aleutians to take the ferry because of the authentic experience. Our Native people originated in this region by traveling by the seas. There is no better way of experiencing the Aleutians than by the waterways. Another huge problem that the ferry has been a connecting link for is our transportation of residents between communities. The current costs for air travel are extremely high and also unreliable. Grant Aviation is currently the service for the Cold Bay site and their service this entire summer has been poor at best. Some families rely on the ferry for their summer visits to extended family in other surrounding communities.Submitted: August 18, 2017
We recently took a month long trip to AK. Two of the weeks were spent in the SE communities of Haines, Juneau, Sitka to Bellingham. We traveled on the AK Marine Highway. It was a fantastic trip and one that no other transportation service provides. Yes there are cruses, but they only spend a few hours in any given location. We wanted to spend (and did) much more time in the communities we visited. As a result we spent over $3,000 dollars in SE AK. I am certain that these tourism $ help support many jobs, both in the communities and on the boats. Reducing the number of trips to communities or drastically increasing the price for transportation would have negative impacts on the tourism $ going to these communities. I hope to be back in SE AK to visit other communities.Submitted: August 17, 2017
Either advertise (and operate) ferries as quaint and the opportunity to travel in a style of an older age OR upgrade ferries with all the trappings (unfortunately) of the modern age: wifi, more pet friendly, better food, and better bar. I mean, you've got a captive audience for both food and drink. Cruise ships clean up in this department.
Charge more for vehicles.Submitted: August 13, 2017
I read your Part of Phase II a draft "Public involvement plan" under AMHS Operations and project Administration including:
- Labor unions
- Department of Administrations governor's office
What I believe is missing in this list is the officers and personnel who have intimate knowledge of the communities they serve,the vessels and the services needed. In fact their input may be the best you can get from a business stand point and not a political opinion. If you want to glean the very best information you should include speaking to the officers and personnel directly. Insuring them that their input will not be used against them or their position on the vessels. Some of these officers have many years between these ports and can also give history of how we are who we are as AMHS today.Submitted: August 11, 2017
I wish I had any answers for the valid and important questions posed at the top of this feedback page, but I do not. I am a 14 year resident of Cordova and have used the ferry twice to get myself to Anchorage with my car to await the birth of my two children and have made countless trips with my husband and kids for medical appointments which spanned days requiring the use of our car or to buy large supplies related to fishing or home building/repairs, when the cost of shipping such items is cost-prohibitive. We have also, just this spring, used the ferry for our oldest child's first of many swim meets. We also anticipate our son to be in sports requiring ferry travel. And we also shop locally as often as we can, which is aided by the grocery and goods that arrive here via the ferry. There are so many ways in which this service is essential to our land-locked community. Please consider all options when looking for solutions to the budget challenges that lay at our feet.Submitted: August 07, 2017
Increasing tourism in the state would be a good start. That means making more fish available to recreational user. Which means changing allocation.
Build some roads. Instead of maintaining old boats eliminate them and use the money for roads. Valdez doesn't need ferry service. So if something has to be cut that should be on top of the list.
I use the ferry all the time to help run a business. But there are other options available to get people and goods from A to B. And I think private businesses will be created if the ferry ceased to exist. Which is better for the state from a money and employment perspective.Submitted: August 07, 2017
I've taken the ferry from Washington in 1980, 2003 and 2017. This year, I didn't know what to expect as I understand the state of Alaska is in financial trouble. My husband and I found the staff very friendly, the food tasty and fresh, the berth comfortable and clean, and everything aboard shipshape. My thoughts are: 1) Is legislature viewing AMHS as a highway? How does the cost compare, mile for mile, with the Parks Highway, for example? 2) Implement a tourist tax on tickets, or funnel money from existing hotel taxes, or both, to help keep the service affordable for Alaskans.Submitted: August 05, 2017
37 years ago, my husband and I used the Alaska Marine Highway on our honeymoon. Since that time, we have enjoyed the ride through the inside passage several times with our growing family. Although I know the problems facing the fleet are serious and critical, it is my hope that something can be worked out to keep this amazing Alaskan icon in service. Time spent on the ferries has always been the highlight of each trip, and I can't imagine going to Alaska without it.Submitted: August 05, 2017
Our family LOVED our three day trip from Ketchican to Sitka on your Marine Highway ferry!!! Once, in the past we had taken a cruise ship through the Inner Passage. The AMHS is 1000% better! We were impressed by the friendliness, cleanliness, amenities, peace, many choices of decks and spaces, meals, cabin space usage, and the people we met on the ferry. Those were all unexpectedly good. Of course we enjoyed the incredible views of the remote narrow passages, sunsets and sunrises, and the beauty of the clean waters. Sitka was our favorite town/city. Thank you for working hard to do a good service.
Submitted: August 05, 2017
August 5, 2017
To Whom This May Concern;
In response to your request for feedback, may I offer the following:
First question: Onboard service is NO longer affordable. Riding the AMHS ferry as is operated now is no longer a viable option for many Alaskan residents. Food is grossly expensive with poor quality. Rooms are too expensive with too little service. Transporting vehicles is too expensive.
Second question: Unless somebody is willing to stand up to the state legislature and be brutally blunt about AMHS, nothing will be done (as has been the case for 25 years now). That is to say, without full state funding, there will be no more AMHS. Ferries are old and unserviceable. Employees are leaving due to lack of job security and working conditions. The whole AMHS system as currently managed has basically been destroyed.
Third question: The so-called level of essential service is too low now and is causing all the problems outlined above.
Fourth question: There is NO long or short-term sustainability without full state funding.
How did AMHS get to this “critical juncture”? My conclusions are:
1 Virtually no support from management or state government.
2 Gross mismanagement. Management is made up of entrenched government bureaucrats with no incentives to change. Over time, bad management will destroy any organization.
3 Insistence on purchasing vessels, engines, motors, and parts overseas instead of from the United States.
4 Passenger service, convenience, and essential services mean nothing without adequate funding. And certainly not from a management team with no care or contact whatsoever with it’s passenger base
I have read all the reports available on your web site. The McDowell report of 2002 refers to previous studies dating back to the early 90’s. All of these studies for the last 25 years state that AMHS is in dire financial straights, is at risk of failure, and needs a change in management and funding to save it. Yet NOTHING HAS CHANGED in 25 + years! Having worked for AMHS both on board and shoreside, the ferry system is going down fast. The good employees have left, and the rest have lost all motivation. On board morale is at an all time low.
If the situation is indeed as dire as has been stated (for over 25 years now), then drastic measures are required and MUST be implemented to save AMHS. This is assuming that AMHS can be salvaged.
First, re-configure all routes.
1. Eliminate Prince Rupert. It is a convenience stop, not an essential stop. State ferries do not have international registry and are not required to stop in any Canadian port.
2. Cut unnecessary ports of call to gain efficiencies. 2 stops per week instead of 3 or 4.
3. Maintain 3 mainliners and make all other ferries day boats.
4. With 2 new day boats coming on line, take the Columbia out of service. The cost of ongoing repairs and lost revenue has exceeded the cost of a new day boat!
5. Huge savings in eliminating duplicate day boat crews for 24 hour shifts.
6. Contract with local companies to provide all room services.
Second, eliminate all state operated food service on board all vessels.
1. Contract with vending companies. Lease all cooking and bar operations for a flat fee plus a % of the gross.
2. Loss of food revenue will be more than offset by savings in food stores, labor, and associated purchases.
3. Huge labor savings by eliminating 8 to 14 crew members per sailing.
Third, eliminate all stateroom services on all day boats.
1. Savings on unnecessary labor.
2. Savings on unnecessary assorted laundry and other miscellaneous cleaning supplies.
Fourth, re-negotiate with all 3 unions. Without funding, all contracts are null and void.
Fifth, scrap the Taku, Chenega, and Columbia. These are huge money pits with no possible return.
1. The cost for a buyer to re-furbish and make sea worthy is far too high with no hope of recovering an investment.
2. Better to cut losses now than to keep spending money with no hope of recovery.
Sixth, drastically reduce passenger and vehicle fares. This would result in a profound increase in ridership.
Seventh, replace the new CaRes reservation system with a system that actually works. It’s another in a long series of financial blunders. It has not worked, is not working now, and is becoming a severe safety and security problem.
Eighth, stop wasting millions of dollars on consultants and studies. All of the consultant studies over the past 25 years have produced absolutely nothing. Why is there an expectation that more wasted money will produce any tangible results? Do your own research by going on board and talking with the crews and passengers.
Ninth, require ALL shoreside personnel to work 1 week every year on board doing what the crews do and interacting with passengers. Not sitting on the bridge or in an office talking, but actually working in the galley or cafeteria, on the car deck, or in the engine room. This will bring an entirely new perspective to vessel operations.
And finally tenth, and quite probably the most important, is a complete change in management. Eliminate the government bureaucrats and replace them with experienced private sector people who know how to operate an organization efficiently. It is the nature of government to be costly and inefficient.
Lastly, some notes and observations:
Recruiting is extremely difficult. Unfair pay differential for out of state employees and costs to gain employment substantially restrict numbers of applicants. New-hires start at basically minimum wage with limited benefits.
Vessel employees are treated as a commodity to be used up and replaced, to the point of abuse. Employees endure long and arduous work days without adequate rest. Sickness and on the job injuries are treated by termination. New employees begin with high expectations and very quickly learn reality: Low pay and benefits coupled with exhausting work schedules cause a high turnover of disillusioned new employees.
Galley equipment is broken. Basic parts are ordered but not delivered. Getting galley equipment fixed or replaced seems to be a very low priority. This results in very poor customer service, which leads to complaints and a decrease in repeat ridership; not to mention high employee frustration.
Submitted: August 05, 2017