MV Hubbard, delayed for years by Gov. Walker, finally in service in Upper Lynn Canal


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. 


  1. Juneau road system?
    News to me.

    You mean the one that goes to Echo Cove?

    If we actually had a road system of north, we could drive to Skagway in about 2 hours. Half the time of the ferry.

  2. Although it’s scheduled voyages are during the day, it’s runtime between Juneau, Haines and Skagway is around 14 hours. In order to run Lynn Canal on that schedule 6 days a week, crew quarters and additional crew are required by the Coast guard.

    • I’ve been on that run. I’m not sure what goes on behind the scenes, but from tossing lines in Juneau it’s about 4-41/2 hours to Skagway.

      About 60-90 min in Skagway and back again.

      At best, it’s a 12 hour day spent on the water. I know from experience.

      It’s not uncommon for locals in Juneau to cruise up and back same day. At least pre Covid.

      • Not so – look at the schedule. 14.5 hours from the time it leaves Juneau to the time it arrives back in Juneau.
        7:00am Dp JNU to HNS
        11:45am Ar HNS fr JNU
        12:45pm Dp HNS to SGY
        1:45pm Ar SGY fr HNS
        2:45pm Dp SGY to HNS
        3:45pm Ar HNS fr SGY
        4:45pm Dp HNS to JNU
        9:30pm Ar JNU fr HNS

      • Sure that is travel time between the destinations, but you have to factor in loading and unloading of vehicles and passengers and any cargo. Each stop allocates an hour to load/unload.

      • “But that wasn’t satisfactory for labor unions, whose members make a lot more money when they sleep on the ship — “

        You have been listening to “ Art “ too much and don’t know what your talking about.
        The USCG has work rest laws that come into effect after a 12 hour day, for the safety of the public, not the benefit of the employee.

  3. And this is why the ferry system needs so much money. People who can’t design a proper vessel and the unions. All is needed is a small economical day, Boat. If the unions don’t like it, then I’m sure we can get some nonunion crews.

  4. All that catering to the unions by the Billy and Byron clown show didnt pay off in enough votes. Maybe there was some gold coins passed under the bathroom stall by the union mafia boss instead but it sure does have an impact on annual operations and maintenance cost as well as the additional 16 million to tear up the interior and start over per Billys request.

    Someday people will realize just how difficult and expensive it is to build in America on account of the union mafia but until then we are “made in china” and new landfills are being developed daily. Someday the landfills will be full and we will start creating mountain ranges made from chinese junk. Mt China has a nice ring to it.

  5. This just shows how corrupt our own state government is. The cost is one and one-half times what it would have been if completed as a day boat originally! This is criminal and Walker should be held accountable!

    • Walker? Sure he was a self serving reptile but don’t you mean that the union should be held accountable?

  6. Once contracts are made, they should not be able to be abridged. And all contracts building vessels should have maintenance schedules built in, like the one Gov. Dunleavy signed last year on another ferry. That would protect the system from running these ferries into the ground. I like ferries, they give you time to enjoy the view and slow down. If you are driving, you have to pay attention to the road and hardly see anything else.

  7. Thoughts and questions abound: Would an Echo Cove terminal reduce the complete round trip enough to fit in the 12 hour window? And save crab pots? (local joke). How about every other day to Haines or Skagway? There is a road connecting them after all. A single-city round trip could occur in less than 12 hours? How about the current situation being 2.5 hours over 12 – does that mean crew members retreat to the bunks after 12, taking the place of the standby crew members who have been aboard patiently waiting for 12 hours (on standby pay) for their shift to start – so they can work 2.5 hours? Given the likelihood there are other factors such as prep time, shift briefings, weather delays, etc. – the answers may be elusive. If the passage fees charged were closer to the actual costs, maybe some ellusive answers would emerge.

  8. The real truth is that there is no reason for this to be subsidized by taxpayers. The boat should not even depart unless it has a revenue load. Dock it overnight instead of paying two crews. Better yet work on a road system. If people want to live on an island, let them pay for it out of their own pockets. This industry should have gone to the private sector years ago.

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