JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The state of Alaska issued a call for a private marine vessel charter to provide service between Juneau’s Auke Bay terminal and Hoonah, Angoon and Kake.
A state transportation spokesman said the private ferries would fill gaps in the Alaska Marine Highway System’s fleet, CoastAlaska reported Tuesday.
The public notice seeks interest from charter companies with ships seating up to 125 passengers and bathroom s.
The notice gave potential service providers until the end of Tuesday to respond.
The three communities were not previously scheduled to receive a state ferry until March.
Long service gaps driven by budget cuts have cut off a number of communities around Alaska, but no other communities were included in the request for information from ferry operators.
“AMHS wants to see if there’s competition in the marketplace for this type of service this time of year and how much it would cost,” regional transportation spokesman Sam Dapcevich said.
The city of Angoon chartered private boats last year at a cost of around $8,000.
Hoonah Mayor Gerry Byers said there is no barge service and that it is a struggle to transport vehicles and goods to the island town 40 miles (64 kilometers) southwest of Juneau without regular ferries.
Bad weather frequently cancels floatplanes, making it difficult for people to reach Alaska Airlines flights from Juneau, Byers said.
“I think it’s a good step by the state to try to help support the community,” Byers said. “Even if it’s just just passengers being able to leave.”
Officials in the three cities said they were not aware private ferries might be used. The transportation department did not coordinate with them, Byers said.
“It is nice that they’re thinking of us,” he said. “It’s just, I wish we’d had a little more planning and a little more — giving the businesses more time to work on this.”