State officials say ferries would continue to sail even if a political impasse over the budget isn’t resolved by the end of the month.
“Should a government shutdown take place on July 1, 2021, the Alaska Marine Highway System will continue to provide service and remain fully operational,” reads a notice that’s appeared on the state-run ferry system’s website.
The Department of Transportation has referred all questions about a potential shutdown to the governor’s office. But DOT Commissioner John MacKinnon wrote in an email to agency employees that confirmed that sailings would continue regardless of what happens inside the Capitol in Juneau.
“All schedule (sic) vessels would continue providing passenger service without interruption,” MacKinnon wrote Wednesday evening in an all-staff memo.
That’s in line with a 10-page document also released late Wednesday by Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration outlining which state functions would operate, which would be scaled back and which would grind to a halt.
Lawmakers are in Juneau for a special session to resolve the dispute. But time is running short.
MacKinnon wrote that there’s still time for the political impasse to be resolved but that the agency has to be prepared if it is not and state government functions are largely curtailed.
“Beyond that, only my assurance that every effort will be made to minimize the impact of this partial government shutdown to you, the lifeblood of this department, and the public whom we serve,” he wrote.
Payroll for essential ferry workers to continue
State officials said Thursday afternoon ferry crew members would continue to be paid.
“Staffing would remain the same for the vessels in operation and shoreside crew will still be necessary,” Kate Sheehan, division director for the state’s Division of Personnel and Labor Relations, wrote in an email to CoastAlaska. “The money exists—it is only that the authority to spend it does not.”
Summer is the busiest season for the marine highway. In July, there are six vessels scheduled to sail seven days a week across coastal Alaska.
The Inter-Island Ferry Authority which runs vessels between Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island also won’t be affected, “unless a shutdown is protracted,” Ron Curtis, IFA’s general manager wrote in an email to CoastAlaska.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated.