Alaska Marine Highway System officials have added an extra route for the M/V Matanuska om May 23 to Bellingham to provide transportation for some 260 passengers, many with vehicles, trying to get to Alaska from Washington state.
The increase in demand for Bellingham sailings in the spring is due to more people traveling to Alaska for work, to visit or to move their households. AMHS officials said they expect the space on this trip to fill up quickly as there is no other mainline space available until late July on the Matanuska and late August on the Kennicott.
State transportation officials said on Tuesday, April 19, that the Kennicott’s scheduled return to service on April 22 would be delayed due to supply chain issues, labor constraints and an unexpected mechanical failure. AMHS is working with all 80 Alaska-bound travelers on alternative transportation options to accommodate their individual travel needs and timeline. AMHS now anticipates the Kennicott will pick up its original schedule on April 25, departing northbound from Ketchikan.
A recent federal court order has ended the U.S. Department of Transportation mask requirement for public transportation. AMHS staff and passengers may choose to continue wearing masks, and the CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings.
When the summer schedule was developed, placeholders were included in each month for a planned resumption of Prince Rupert, B.C., service. While AMHS ultimately scheduled Prince Rupert trips from June through September, the May placeholder was left unscheduled to allow time to finish up diplomatic agreements required for visiting the international port.
As a result of this schedule change, a few passengers in Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Kake and Juneau will be rescheduled. The LeConte will cover the Matanuska’s May 23 sailing to Sitka.
The Matanuska can carry 450 passengers and has a vehicle capacity of 1,675 linear feet, which is equal to approximately 83 twenty-foot vehicles. There are 21 three-berth, 5 four-berth, and 79 two-berth cabins, as well as 1 wheelchair-accessible cabin.
The state agency said they are expecting a strong summer season as the economy picks up. Marketing experts are forecasting RV traffic will increase significantly this summer. High fuel prices may also increase ridership on the Marine Highway; the current 37% fuel surcharge on barge freight, makes the AMHS car deck fares a more economical alternative in many cases.