Engine Problem Shelves Alaskan Ferry

Tuesday, May 10, 2005
The Alaska Marine Highway System announced that the MV Columbia has been delayed in Ketchikan by an engine problem, and will not make its northbound schedule. In its place, the MV Kennicott will pick up the Columbia’s northbound passengers and car deck load. The Kennicott is scheduled to leave Ketchikan tonight at 11:15, will depart Wrangell at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday and Petersburg at 2 p.m., and arrive in Juneau on Tuesday at 10 p.m. It will then depart for a cross-Gulf voyage to Yakutat, Valdez, and Seward on Wednesday at 1:30 a.m. Captain John Falvey, AMHS general manager, said ferry system engineers are working around the clock with representatives of Cascade General, the Portland, Oregon shipyard that recently completed an 8-month-long rebuild of both of the Columbia’s massive Enterprise engines.

“We believe the problem has been isolated to a defective camshaft in the starboard engine,” Falvey said. “The repair work will be done in Ketchikan. In the meantime, we are bringing the Taku back into service to fill in for the Columbia until it is able to carry passengers.”

Falvey noted that both the Matanuska and the Malaspina are in the shipyard in Ketchikan for annual maintenance, which is normally scheduled to take place ahead of the busy summer visitor season, and are not available. The Taku has been in winter lay-up and was scheduled to be activated in late September. Falvey expects the Taku to be in service and depart Ketchikan for Juneau Tuesday night at 6 p.m.

“The Taku is a significantly smaller vessel than the Columbia, in terms of car deck space and staterooms, so it is imperative that we get the Columbia back into full-time service as soon as possible,” Falvey said. The Columbia carries 499 passengers, with 104 staterooms, and car deck space for 134 average-sized vehicles. The Taku carries 370 passengers, with 44 staterooms, and a car deck for 69 vehicles.

The work on the Columbia’s engines was part of a larger, federally-funded overhaul costing more than $10 million, and the first complete engine rebuild since the vessel was constructed and entered service in 1974. The camshaft repair is covered under warranty.

AMHS customers are advised to check with their local terminal operators for exact departure times for the Kennicott.

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