The Inter-Island Ferry Authority says its lone working ferry broke down Wednesday, stranding some Prince of Wales Island residents in Ketchikan. Repairs are expected to take until Nov. 1, and all sailings are canceled until further notice.
IFA General Manager Ron Curtis told KRBD Wednesday that the M/V Stikine’s return trip from Ketchikan to Hollis that afternoon was canceled after crews found a mechanical issue in one of the vessel’s engines.
Curtis says the issue means the U.S. Coast Guard won’t allow the ferry to sail with passengers, but he anticipates the ferry will be able to make a crew-only return trip to Hollis Thursday morning to return Prince of Wales Island residents’ cars to the island.
The breakdown of the Stikine leaves the IFA without any working ferries — the M/V Prince of Wales broke down in May in what the ferry authority described as a “catastrophic propulsion system failure.” Curtis says that vessel is waiting on repairs repairs on that vessel are expected to be completed by the end of the year. Thursday’s statement from the IFA blames “scheduling issues and the complexities of funding” for delays in repairing the Prince of Wales.
“We realize that this is a major inconvenience to our customers and supply chain partners,” the IFA statement continues. “We are working diligently on identifying solutions for our customers during this difficult time.”
Curtis said he’s contacted the Alaska Marine Highway System about filling the gap left by the IFA, as it did earlier this year.
Department of Transportation spokesperson Sam Dapcevich said Thursday that the AMHS ferry Lituya could help restore the link between Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan as soon as next week, but said ferry officials are still discussing logistics. The Lituya, which ordinarily shuttles people and cars between Ketchikan and Metlakatla, is smaller than the IFA’s vessels. Given that October generally brings rougher seas to southern Southeast Alaska, Dapcevich said that could make sailings more weather-dependent.
Dapcevich said he anticipates more information will be available Friday.
Curtis, the IFA manager, encourages ferry patrons to monitor the IFA’s Facebook page for updates.
This story was last updated with additional reporting at 12:26 p.m. Thursday.