Returning north, new ferry system chief comes from extensive Alaska background

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Craig Tornga has been named the new director for the Alaska Marine Highway System. His first day will be April 3.

Tornga has experience both in the marine industry and in managing multifaceted organizations. He started his maritime career sailing aboard Crowley’s ocean going vessels, and spent over 20 years working his way up through the Crowley’s Marine Services Division.

Tornga began his career with Crowley in 1977 as an ordinary seaman in Seattle. Over the years he held supervisory and managerial roles for the company in marine dispatch and customer service. In 1994, he was promoted to director of contract services, and in 1996 he was assigned to Anchorage, where he was general manager of oil industry services. He later went on to manage the company’s petroleum distribution, Valdez marine services, and North Slope energy support operations. In 2011, Tornga was tapped to lead Crowley’s new marine solutions group in Houston.

He was named vice president of stakeholder relations for Alaska and he relocated to Anchorage, where he report to Rocky Smith, senior vice president and general manager, petroleum distribution and marine services. Tornga is a past recipient of the Thomas Crowley Award, the company’s highest honor.

Since 2017, Tornga has served as the senior vice president for Kirby Offshore Marine in Houston, Texas.

“Craig is going to do a great job leading the AMHS team,” said DOT Commissioner Ryan Anderson. “His experience, first as a mariner, then in managing complex marine operations, will be invaluable to the Marine Highway operations and staff.”

“Mr. Tornga’s decades of experience and knowledge in the unique marine industry here in Alaska and Houston span every element needed for the successful management of a complex Alaskan owned and operated Marine Highway,” said Shirley Marquardt, Alaska Marine Highway Operations Board chair. “We have confidence that Craig will rise to the challenge and gain the support of our great employees who love the system.”

Per statute, DOT&PF conferred with AMHOB before offering Tornga the position. The board reviewed his credentials in executive session on March 13, and subsequently unanimously supported his candidacy at the public meeting on the same day.

The marine director position, formerly known as the AMHS general manager, has been vacant after the retirement of Captain John Falvey in January.

22 COMMENTS

    • Jon, Your comment might also include , defund all airport maintenance and give me my full statutory PFD. Or better yet, defund all D.O.T. Road maintenance and give me my full statutory PFD. How about Close the Parks Highway and Give me my full statutory PFD, I mean after all we’ve got the Alaska Railroad running along the same route, would not that make more sense? After all the Ferry System, ( an act approved by Alaska Voters in the newly minted State of Alaska) predates the Parks by many years. I’m sure you can see where I am going with this.

      • “…….I’m sure you can see where I am going with this.”
        Probably not. That mentality is both too weak and too focused on parasitic feeding to grasp such complex thought.

        • Reggie, How about this, the Alaska Marine Highway was founded not too many months after Statehood. It was considered then an essential service, same as a Highway. My comment to Jon was an attempt to get him thinking about what an essential State Service is.

          Recall that prior to Oil Money the State had the same miles of High Way (that also includes the Dalton, which we built prior to oil revenue, 1974) and better Ferry service than we enjoy today, all this prior to the Billions of petro-dollars that were dumped into our coffers. How did the State provide those essential services back then without Oil Revenue? Did we have better legislators prior to oil $?

          My point is not anemic nor is it parasitic, it is about intelligently funding essential service and making the argument for those essential services. I find that many folks who live in the “Railbelt” often are fairly provincial in their thinking about Alaska and don’t always have a grasp of the other regions around our Great State.

          Looking forward to your reply. Thanks and have a good Day Sir.

          • Robert, let me point out a fallacy in your comment. We don’t have a “Marine Highway System;” that term is a fantasy construct. We don’t even have a ferry system. A highway is something cars drive on. A ferry is a vessel linking a short distance between the termini of a highway system. What we really have is an ocean liner system. Calling it a “marine highway” is similar to me calling myself a woman; its just plain stupid.
            .
            Any vessel having beds cannot rationally be called a ferry (which is only a day boat). Ocean liners are like airliners; they entail millions of details and variables to own and manage…. a challenge always better left to the private free-market rather than government (google Soviet Union). The reason our government owns and runs airports, but not airlines, also applies to marine vessels. The AMHS is a government/union-run failure and it always will be. If government provided terminals to enable the private sector to run competitive vessel operations it might succeed like airports.

          • “…….Recall that prior to Oil Money the State had the same miles of High Way (that also includes the Dalton, which we built prior to oil revenue, 1974) and better Ferry service than we enjoy today, all this prior to the Billions of petro-dollars that were dumped into our coffers……”
            A more apt point has never been made. The people of Alaska should reflect long and hard on your point. We’ve gained wonderful sports arenas since Big Oil (the biggest now being used as the most inappropriate homeless shelter in North America), but no more roads, even where the right-of-way already exists: the Copper River Hwy……..which could save Marine Hwy service to Cordova for tourist season, if it proved profitable.
            Another consideration; the attempted ferry service in Cook Inlet by the Mat-Su Borough killed by the Municipality of Anchorage. We got the vessel for free, courtesy of the U.S. Navy. Tyonek, Kenai, Mat-Su, and Williamsport were on board. Anchorage, a key economic port, refused to entertain a port of call in the Ship Creak area. It could have easily been a dual purpose proclamation at the current boat launch, but no. Eventually, the vessel was virtually given away to the Philippines Red Cross, who will put it to the good use that hard hearted Alaskans wasted.
            The people in power in Alaska and Washington DC will not allow access to their (public) lands. We may as well accept that and adjust accordingly. It will remain that way well beyond our lifetimes.

      • Ill bet that the Parks Hwy serves far more travelers and goods than the AK Marine Hwy. Its not our fault most who use the Marine system live in N Seattle. Move the Capital to South Central.

          • More people and goods travel on the AMHS than the Parks Hwy? LOL! Yeah, sure. Provide your evidence. I’d love to see that! Ever stay a night in a camper along the side of the hwy, even in winter? It goes all night long, every night, both heavy trucks and cars. You couldn’t load a fraction of one night into all the ferries we have on your once-per-week ferry service.

      • C’mon, you’re smarter than that. I’m no ferry system fan but I do recognize that there are some places that have to either be abandoned or served by ferries. The real issue is the cost per passenger or ton/mile. Some passages on the AMHS cost ten times or more per passenger mile than an equivalent highway trip. The large airports and the ARR are self-supporting, though they might dip in the till for capital funds.

        Ferries and their support structure are paid for by federal highway funds with a 10-20% State match. Operation and maintenance of the ferries and their support structure is entirely State funded and the fare box doesn’t come close to paying for it. The system runs like the 19th Century steamship lines it replaced and runs mostly for the comfort, convenience, and remuneration of its crews. It should have long ago been converted to a hub and spoke system using short haul day boats. The only “blue water” boat(s) the system needs is to service Kodiak and, maybe cross-Gulf. Everybody has known it for decades, but in my 20-odd years I never had a Governor or AMHS director with the guts to duke it out with the unions and other vested interests.

    • Defund the PFD, and let’s enjoy a 15%-25% depopulation of Alaska consisting completely of the parasite class.

  1. Get rid of half the ferries. Taxpayers don’t need to fund people that want to live in the “bush” but still want Costco, dental appointments, and Les Schwab once a week.

    • We already fund the bush. Just look at the fuel subsidy that the state provides. Every village has large generators running 24/7 for power. Where do they get income for thousands of gallons of diesel every year.

      • The Power Cost Equalization Fund is where the money comes from. There were a number of large hydroelectric power plants built around the state on the state dime, the railbelt (Homer to Fairbanks) got a good portion of the proceeds, Kodiak got some and SE got some too. To make things “fair” the Power Cost Equalization Fund was created.

        • Steve I know the power equalization fund is there for a reason but the bush does very little for the amount of money they receive. In the larger population centers the commerce and jobs help the state. The bush is a drain on our economy. They vote Mary in the office and she votes to shut down the oil. The bush is a bottomless pit just like the ferry system. The government has never ran a business or department successful house they want is more more more every year there’s never enough money.

  2. This sounds like an excellent choice. We remain hopeful that the Alaska Marine Highway System be restored to good working order as it once was. My congratulations to Mr. Tornga.

  3. I think this position should be renamed Admiral of the Alaska Marine Highway System, director isn’t really fitting for a commander of a naval fleet…not that the director is a commander. Mostly it would be awesome to have an Alaskan Admiral of the Alaska Marine Highway System.

  4. As a SE resident, I understand the importance of the ferry system to our communities.

    I also see its wide range of fatal flaws.
    The entire approach needs a massive overhaul.

    A system of roads and bridges can connect much of SE to the Canadian mainland, and the coastal communities to each other. This would drastically eliminate the need for ferries in SE.

    Further, a road and bridge system can connect communities across Baranof and Chichagof islands, minimizing the need for service there.

    This would free up the ferries to primarily serve the outlying communities, the Aleutians, and the Bellingham/Juneau run.

    Yes, the roads would be expensive and the left will wet themselves. But once built they will be easier and cheaper to maintain than the current union run ferry system.

    For those who say it can’t be done for (fill in the blank), it’s done everywhere except here. I’ve driven the Alcan in the dead of winter and it was fine on the Canadian side. Same with the Klondike Highway. Visits to places like Norway, Finland, ect also disprove the “can’t be done” myth.

    Phase out the ferries to the communities which actually need them.

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