The Alaska Marine Highway ferry MV Hubbard is finally in service in Upper Lynn Canal. It was constructed at the Vigor Shipyard in Ketchikan, the second Alaska Class ferry built at the relatively new shipyard. The first was the Taslina.
While the Hubbard has been making its laps for a month, it was finally christened by First Lady Rose Dunleavy on Monday, with the ceremonial smashing of a champagne bottle near its bow.
The Hubbard currently serves as a day boat between Juneau, Haines, and Skagway.
As originally designed, it didn’t have crew sleeping quarters, because it was to be purpose built for the northern Lynn Canal, and crew members would go to their own homes after their shifts. But that wasn’t satisfactory for labor unions, whose members make a lot more money when they sleep on the ship — they wanted overnight routes.
During the administration of Bill Walker, the governor and the labor unions changed the contract for the boat to add crew quarters. In 2018, after Walker was ceremoniously dumped from office, the spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation cryptically said, “The primary reason the ACFs [Alaska Class ferries] cannot be deployed this summer on the planned routes is the previous administration, for whatever reasons, did not make the necessary revisions to the marine union contracts and modifications to the Haines terminal.”
Thus, a ferry that was originally supposed to be in service in 2018 needed additional appropriations, and was some of its brand new interior was torn apart and retrofitted. Nearly a decade after it was funded for about $30 million by the Legislature, it’s finally in service, at an additional cost of $16 million.
The Alaska Class ferry, which is a day boat concept, began in 2006 under Gov. Frank Murkowski. It would be part of a plan to extend Juneau’s road north and shorten the trip between the three communities. Service throughout Southeast Alaska could be greatly improved, if getting in and out of a Juneau road system was not so time-consuming. Other ferries could be deployed elsewhere in the system.
That plan never materialized because Gov. Walker killed the Juneau Access project and said the ship was needed for overnight runs, which was preferred by the labor unions.
The $16 million retrofit added eight single person staterooms on the bridge deck, and eight two-person staterooms on the upper deck. Additional work included the installation of a galley, scullery, and crew mess spaces on the upper deck; a new fan room on the bridge deck; and extension of the existing port stair tower to the bridge deck to serve the new accommodations. Adding overnight quarters for crew greatly increases the cost of running the ferry.
Even though it has the $16 million add-ons, it’s currently just a day boat, as originally planned.
The MV Hubbard is 280 feet long, seats up to 300 passengers and carries 53 standard vehicles. The passenger amenities include observation lounges with comfortable chairs, a covered heated solarium, a cafeteria-style cafe, a children’s play area and a quiet room.