Changes in Unalaska ferry service proposed for next year

Courtesy of Nancy Heise
Courtesy of Nancy Heise

The Alaska Department of Transportation is proposing changes in ferry service to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor for the 2016 sailing season.

On Tuesday the state agency released its draft Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) sailing schedule for next year. If approved as is, the ferry Tustumena will sail to Unalaska once in June and once in September. In May, July and August, the ferry will make the run from Kodiak to Unalaska twice a month.

According to DOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow, the proposed changes to the state’s ferry system schedule is “significantly different than previous years’ schedules.”

In the past, the ferry has serviced Unalaska twice each month from May through September. State budget cuts have led to reduced sailings across the system. Woodrow said a reason the Tustumenawill come to Unalaska just once in June 2016 is because the vessel will be filling in on another route elsewhere that month.

The DOT is asking for public comment on the proposed 2016 sailing schedule, found here.

Written comments will be accepted via email and fax prior to November 3. Send emails to dot.amhs.comments@alaska.gov or fax to 907-228-6874.

A teleconference to hear comments and consider adjustments to the Southwest and Southcentral Alaska schedule is on Wednesday, November 4th at 1:30 p.m. The toll free number to participate is 800-315-6338, conference code 03902#.

Fares are not slated to increase for the 2016 season.

“Fares did go up this last year, we haven’t proposed any new fare structure changes,” for the coming year, said Woodrow.

Meanwhile, the AHMS is transitioning to a new reservation system.

“One thing that did change for the winter bookings is the cancellation policy for the fares…to basically help fill the space on the ships more. Before we had a pretty lenient change reservation policy and now we’ve structured that more similar to what people find with the airlines,” said Woodrow.

Woodrow says the new system will start accepting advance 2016 bookings through the AMHS call center in December.