Tustumena tied up in Homer because there are not enough workers to run the ferry until July 30

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The Alaska Marine Highway ferry Tustumena docked at Homer on Tuesday, June 26, to rest the crew for several days. A critical crew shortage required the vessel to stay in port for safety reasons. Sailings between Homer and Kodiak have been cancelled until Saturday, July 30.

The ship has been operating with a small but dedicated group of sailors in southwest Alaska since July 16. Due to insufficient numbers of replacement staff, the ship has not been able to backfill essential positions that are vacant due to illness or other qualifying needs. Staffing shortages have been a concern nationally and throughout the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Since early 2022, The Department of Transportation has embarked on an aggressive hiring campaign to recruit workers. The department is employing head hunters, participating in job fairs across Alaska and Washington, and offering $5,000 signing bonuses to attract new crew members.

People interested in working for the Alaska Marine Highway are encouraged to check the AMHS hiring page at this link.

Earlier this year, the Tustemena was delayed returning to service after being in the Seward shipyard for major upgrades and repairs; the delay was due to supply chain issues leading to the inability to get requires items.

Photo: Gordon Leggett, Wikimedia Creative Commons.

42 COMMENTS

  1. Ain’t it great???
    What is the base pay…
    $35.00 an hour?
    But welfare, food stamps and Covid pay better.

    • I think wages for most non skilled start about 20 an hour. Standard in SE.

      Shipbuilders, captains, engineers are paid market rate.

  2. Why don’t they issue some temporary worker visas for the summer? It seems like everything from the McDonalds to the ferry system is understaffed. If Americans don’t want to work get some Mexicans and they will work for half price.

    • You have to have a US Coast Guard Merchant Mariner credential to work for the System. For most jobs the MMC is nothing but a barrier to entry that just helps to keep the wages high, but the marine unions have a lot of swack in Congress and with the USCG.

  3. Another one of Dunleavy’s shortcomings to the communities of Southeast Alaska. Gave away three ferries and now the one that is finally working doesn’t have trained and certificated persons to work on it. Heavy loss of jobs and businesses and no access for 70, 000 people in Southeast Alaska. People couldn’t get to hospitals and doctors and shopping. Emergency issues had to take care of itself. Example the emergency of the Haines slide and they still have not had what they need from emergency sources to build and recover. Not an effort to work anything for the people of Haines, Skagway or other communities that suffered heavy losses. With Dunleavy, its oh well, next year will be better. Wake up! Alaska! Get out and vote! Vote Dunleavy out of office! Let’s get with it and get that vote done and gone with Dunleavy!!!

    • Why do Alaskans feel like someone always has to have their back and give them something? Why should the state pay for a ferry to run to some small village in southeast Alaska where the people are proud to live in the “bush” and don’t need interference from the government and are self reliant? Because they want to go to Costco twice a week and the eye doctor or catch a flight to Arizona to their summer home. That’s why. I don’t see how the government is responsible for that lifestyle do you? The natives don’t need the ferry systems. They have lived here for 10 thousand years or longer they don’t want the ferry they dont even want us here. Get rid of the money sucking ferry system. If you want to live in a cabin out in the “bush” then find your own ride to Les Schwabb for new snow tires. Do t ask the government to pay your way.

      • Lorna:

        Most of us in SE regard the ferry as something we gotta use, not want to use. The roads we were promised would be nice. But that’s not gonna happen. It might hurt a tree or scare a bear while pooping.

        The main people making a big freaking deal over the ferries are white liberals who want womb to tomb government everything. And they rarely use them.

        Few of us are asking for AK to fund our lives. But since the government won’t get out of our way and let us do for ourselves, there you are.

        Did you know there is a private ferry from Ketchikan to Prince of Wales island? Works just fine. Makes money and is more reliable than the Marine Highway. Imagine what we could do if the government let us?

        • Fine with us.
          So we can keep our dollars local and quit funding state roads on the mainland we rarely use.

          Or the railroad.

          Of the Anchorage and Whittier docks.

          See how stupid this line of thinking is?

          • Everybody’s got to put something in the kitty. Does that mean you’re going to go out there with your skiffs and defend your village against a Russian destroyer parked out in your harbor?

          • As regarding “stupid,” lets go to logic. Let’s assume, for the sake of discussion only, the state spends a state-wide average of $700/person/year on transportation. That said, if you choose to live on a remote mountain top, how much more than that average should the state spend on your transportation needs? Is it okay that the state spends about 40-times the average to serve the remote village of Pelican in Southeast? Is everyone entitled to the same transportation services regardless of WHERE THEY CHOOSE to live?

          • No not really… because look at how many people use a state road compared to a ferry. See how stupid it is?

    • Uh, no DK. try again.

      I’m a Juneauite. You?

      The ferries should have been either privatized or mostly gone out of business decades ago.

      The Marine Highway was never intended to be a permanent fixture. It was supposed to get us until the road system we were promised was built.

      There are only two areas where the ferry still makes sense. Bellingham to Juneau and Kodiak to Dutch Harbor. And those are primarily for economic reasons.

      There is nowhere near 70,000 people in SE. Not even close. We’ve been a region in decline for decades. The Clinton administration killed us with logging restrictions. The ferry system has nothing to do with it.

      Most communities of any size here have a health facility. People in need of serious care are med evacuated to the nearest big hospital. Same as any other rural part of any other state.

      We accept isolation as a part of living here or we leave. No one keeps us from going. Most SE natives wouldn’t leave if forced.

      Regarding shopping: ever heard of Amazon? We get things like mail, electricity, and even telephones here.

      The wonderful ferries are overpriced, slow, and unreliable. Plus out of state visitors use them at the same price as AK residents.

      I’m no fan of the Cowardly Lion, but the ferries are not his fault. Governors from Knowles to Walker did nothing to mandate maintenance, plan for obsolescence, or build roads. Parnell did try to build the road, but Walker killed it.

      Regarding your last failed issue. The Haines slide isn’t something that can be fixed overnight. A great deal of that isn’t infrastructure but political wrangling. State and locally. Our legislature is mostly from Anchorage and doesn’t give a damn about projects outside the bowl. This is something we know very well.

      If you really are so worried about us, help us get a road from Skagway to Ketchikan. Then one linking Hoonah to Sitka.

      Lastly, if you really care about our economic and physical health, get rid of the ferries (except the two named above). Let local businesses step in and fill the void.

      Right now the term you’re looking for is “oops”. Don’t use us to fight you battles. We’re rural bush people. We have our own issues.

    • I’m sorry, I must have missed the part where float planes and boats ferry people to a major hub so they can catch a larger plane to fly into Anchorage to do their business. And I never had a ferry come by and pick me up. I had to get to Anchorage the best way I could. It’s part of the deciding to live wherever in the state you decide it comes with sacrifices.

    • DK
      You seem to think that by keeping three other worn out ferries, the entire system would magically be fully staffed?

      You didn’t finish thinking that one through.

  4. Meanwhile, the Tusty should do a homeless cruise. One way to Adak. Round emup and make it a free trip. Kick them off in Adak and return the ship immediately to Anchorage. If successful, do it again. Many problems will be solved.

    • That’s a pretty hard statement. What did those people do to you? Many suffer from mental illness, unskilled labor or starved out of the village and arrived in Anchorage with stars in their eyes only to be deceived by The promise of a descent way of life that was unattainable. Is that what Jesus said to do, verbally beat up on the homeless and ship them off to some desolate location because if they’re out of sight they’re out of mind? Are you so intolerable too anything that isn’t Shangri-La?

        • Exactly, Avenger. The homeless have become nothing more than a political pawn for diametrically opposed groups. Take the homeless out of the urban area and let’s get back to the business of working for the other 99.9% of Alaskans.

        • People do what they can. For instance picking up a homeless person and taking them to the nearest Burger King for a meal. Helping pay for a flight back to the village to get somebody out of Anchorage. Jesus doesn’t hurt people so if you’ve been hurt perhaps point the finger in another direction.

          • Jesus helps those who help themselves. When was the last time a homeless gave you a dime or took you to Burger King?
            Or, took you up on your offer to let them work for you for pay?

    • Agree with Joe, above. Ship out the homeless to a faraway island. The City of Miami is doing exactly that. Rounding them up and boating them out to an island. Extreme Lefties can pony-up cash and buy them McDonalds. Those incredible humanitarians.

  5. There is something more to this story; she either had enough crew to sail or she couldn’t sail at all. The USCG sets the minimum manning and if the ship doesn’t have it, it can’t sail. There is a back story here that we’re not getting.

  6. IIlness. Are the crew covid vaccinated and out
    with covid. This is the trend of today, the workers calling off got the covid shots, which is concerning.

  7. We all know it, we all see it, but almost no one will say it. The vax injures and dead can’t work anymore.

  8. Ah yes, the elephant in the room kinda like funding universities that indoctrinate rather then educate. Remember folks, vote for the concon.

  9. If any of you “armchair sailors” care to look into the amount of US Coast Guard, federally required certifications one must attain in order to receive a Merchant Marine credential so they can work on a U.S. flag vessel then you will understand why there are so few merchant mariners these days. It’s all in the name of “safety”, so safe in fact, that a ship can’t sail anymore. People are not willing to jump through all the hoops and government BS that never seems to end.

  10. This whole ferry system mess was bound to happen. When I moved here from Washington state in ’09 I was amazed at the ferry system. How many ships and the length of the routes was astounding. Washington state has always had trouble with their ferry system and they just run Puget Sound. The oil money tapered off and the AMHS quickly went broke and with COVD, labor shortages.

  11. It is about time to let commercial operators fill in the maritime transportation needs of Alaska. It worked in the old days and it should work again without having to cater to the state funded mafia.

    • No, do some research. The private maritime industry did a terrible and terribly expensive job of serving Alaska; that’s why we have the ferry system.

      • Correct.. it’s not financially feasible for a private company to run a ferry service. Henceforth the state picks up the dime and does it with mass amounts of federal dollars. Typical Alaska, the state provides a service because nobody else will. If a town can’t support a Denny’s, or an ice rink, or a ski hill. Is it the local governments responsibility to provide that service at taxpayers expense? No it’s not. If you want services like that then move to a populated area.

  12. So the state is engaged in a nationwide employee recruitment program with hiring bonuses? Isn’t the purpose of the unions to provide workers? It sounds like we are doing their job for them.

    • John Binkley purchased it from the state for $250K. Not an advertised sale. Binkley will keep it in Ketchikan, dress it up, and charge tourists to take a tour or spend the night. A real floating hotel. Restaurants and a bar too. The original Blue Canoe is now squeezed in at the old cannery dock where NCL brings in the super cruise ships.

        • Yeah, he helped get rid of you from the governor’s office, Frankie…….you idiot. Does Nancy have to tell you everything?

          • I just told Frankie, “don’t appoint John Binkley, otherwise he’ll come after you in a governor’s race and Lisa will have to sell noodles for the rest of her life.”
            Well, Binkley ran against Frankie, and Lisa is still peddling noodles to Alaskans.
            God Bless the Malaspina.

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