The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) announced that the Tazlina Ferry is set to replace the Fairweather in May.
Late in 2018, AMHS had indicated that the Tazlina was going to be delayed until winter 2019.
AMHS made the decision on December 16 with the goal of saving funds.
Initially, AMHS was planning on deploying the Tazlina after crew quarters were completed. The crew quarters were scheduled to cost $27 million.
While the crew quarters aren’t being added, there will be a future project to add forward side doors to the Tazlina.
The Fairweather ferry will be retired from service entirely, according to a release from the AMHS.
By switching the Fairweather out with the Tazlina, AMHS is expected save $1 million that would have been required for repairs and upkeep on the Fairweather. In addition, the Tazlina is more fuel efficient and is expected to require $500,000 less in fuel costs yearly.
“I commend AMHS for taking a hard look at the system and recognizing opportunities to save money,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner John MacKinnon.
No updated schedule has been released at this time, but Skagway can expect the same service that the Fairweather was going to give. With the Tazlina being a conventional speed vessel, AMHS is forecasting that it will run seven days a week, compared to the Fairweather’s four.
One major change that Skagway residents can look forward to with the introduction of the Tazlina is the size.
The Tazlina is a larger ferry and will be able to hold more passengers and vehicles, according to Aurah Landau, Public Information Officer for AMHS.
There are still potential impacts that the new ferry brings, such as the route schedules being directional on certain days and whether of not the Tazlina will be able to accommodate the large RV’s that frequently come into Skagway via ferry.
“I think (accommodation of RVs) a big concern,” vice-mayor Tim Cochran said.
Skagway residents shouldn’t be able to see a big difference in the their expected ferry service though, according to Landau.
“AMHS is developing a service schedule that should maintain service levels for Skagway that are similar to those originally proposed for the summer,” Landau said.