Hull Crack Forces Ferry Aurora Out of Service Early for Repairs

The ferry Aurora docks in Gustavus in 2010. It’s now in Ketchikan for hull repairs and its annual overhaul. (Photo by Alaska Department of Transportation)
The ferry Aurora docks in Gustavus in 2010. It’s now in Ketchikan for hull repairs and its annual overhaul. (Photo by Alaska Department of Transportation)

The ferry Aurora is out of service a week earlier than expected. A small crack was found last week in its hull. The Coast Guard ordered repairs be made before it resumes passenger service on its Prince William Sound route.

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Alaska Marine Highway spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says the Aurora was sent to Ketchikan’s shipyard, where it was scheduled for other work.

“The vessel was going out of service on Aug. 14 to enter its annual overhaul period. Because of that, knowing that we had to do some extensive repairs to the area where the crack was noticed in, we sent the vessel to Ketchikan to have those repairs done.”

The 38-year-old ship is scheduled to resume service in October. It’s not yet known what caused the crack.

Woodrow says the crack did not immediately compromise vessel safety.

The Aurora connects Whittier, Cordova and Valdez. It sometimes sails Southeast routes, mostly filling in for its sister ship, the LeConte.

It carries up to 250 passengers and 33 vehicles.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.