Head of Alaska’s ferry system calls for reduced fleet

The ferry Taku sails into the Wrangell Narrows on its way south in 2013. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)
The ferry Taku sails into the Wrangell Narrows on its way south in 2013. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

The head of the Alaska Marine Highway System says the ferry system’s fleet needs to downsize amid proposed cuts to operations in the next fiscal year.

The Juneau Empire reports that Capt. Michael Neussl told the Alaska House Transportation Committee Thursday that the ferry system needs to get rid of two of its 11 ships “sooner, rather than later.”

With the governor’s current budget proposal, which includes a $5 million cut to ferry system operations, the Marine Highway expects to reduce its service to 320 operating weeks, a level not seen since 2004.

Lawmakers were open to Neussl’s proposal, and discussed which ships should be sold.

Neussl says the first pick would likely be the ferry Taku, which has been laid up since last year and is 53 years old.