Columbia out of service a week for repairs

The 50-year-old state ferry Columbia has been pulled from service, with the Alaska Marine Highway System reporting repairs is expected to take a week.

The problem is in the steering system, Sam Dapcevich, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Transportation, told the Ketchikan Daily News on Friday, Oct. 27.

“It’s going to require a fairly extensive repair that’s going to take place down in Bellingham, (Washington),” Dapcevich said.

The Columbia left Southeast Alaska on its regular southbound sailing Monday, Oct. 30, heading from Ketchikan to Bellingham, where it will park for repairs for a week. The work will cancel a northbound sailing through Wrangell on Friday, Nov. 3, and a southbound stop on Monday, Nov. 6.

Assuming the repairs are completed as planned, the vessel is scheduled to resume its regular service with a Wednesday, Nov. 8, departure from Bellingham to Southeast.

Passengers on the canceled sailings have been notified of the shutdown and have been given the opportunity to rebook for another sailing or to receive a refund, Dapcevich said.

The Columbia’s latest mechanical problem adds to the ferry system’s list of breakdowns and ships out of service for repairs or lack of crew.

The 60-year-old Matanuska has been tied up in Ketchikan for a year, with the state trying to determine how much rusted steel it would need to replace to put the ship back into service — and whether the state should spend the money.

The Kennicott, the newest of the fleet’s mainline vessels at 25 years old, also is tied up — but for lack of enough crew, not repairs. It is due to come back into service later in November to take over for the Columbia, which is scheduled to head to the shipyard for winter maintenance.

The Columbia returned to service earlier this year after the state had kept the ship at the dock for about three years to save money.


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