By Gretchen Wehmhoff
Travelers planning to sail on the Alaska Marine Highway System (AHMS) must now meet the requirements of recent COVID-19 protocols for passengers and crew, including no more disembarking during port calls.
On June 24, the State of Alaska Department of Transportation issued new testing and boarding procedures for the AMHS in conjunction with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
Passenger boarding ferries in Bellingham, Wash. must present evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result administered within the last 72 hours. In addition, travelers need to complete a mandatory declaration form which asks about their travel, COVID-19 exposure and test history.
Alaska accepts only molecular-based tests such as the PCR tests – antibody/serology tests are not accepted. Results from FDA-approved home self-test swab kits are also accepted.
Travelers heading to Alaska should also be familiar with specific protocols. Visitors will need to complete the declaration form and be able to meet one of four options to prove they have a qualifying negative test, receive a test upon arrival in Alaska, self-quarantine for 14-days or follow the employer work plans that were filed with the state.
Longer duration trips that originate in Alaska, those that begin or end in Bellingham, cross the Gulf of Alaska or travel to and from the Aleutian Chain and Kodiak, require either a COVID-19 test with five days prior to boarding or a sworn statement attesting to appropriate quarantine history. AHMS requires a Passenger Screening Form for Mainline Travel for those who take the second option of not providing a negative test result.
Passengers on day-boat or shorter duration travel are not required to have COVID-19 testing or a sworn statement of quarantine. However, AHMS requires all in-state passengers to complete the Passenger Screening form, responding “no” to all questions, before boarding any vessel.
Face coverings are mandatory for all passengers over the age of 24 months except when in their own stateroom, a designated smoking area or while eating. AHMS says it will work with accommodations for passengers who have difficulty wearing face coverings due to a disability.
It is not unusual for tourists to want to leave the ferry during regular port calls. Due to the risk of COVID-19, passengers will not be permitted to take go ashore until they reach their destination.
To meet the needs of social distancing, ferries have restricted passenger capacities. The Tustumena and LeConte will be limited to 60 passengers, the Lituya,17, the Tazlina, 90 and the Kennicott and Matanuska will be limited to 125 passengers each.
Due to the change in capacities, AHMS recommends advance reservations for trips.
AHMS provided links to testing locations and at home test availability are available on the AHMS website and below.
COVID-19 Test Location links
FDA authorized at home tests: