Friday, September 6, 2019

Prince Rupert Mayor to travel to Alaska in quest of AMHS service closure reversal

Unless there's a change of plans by the Alaska Marine Highway System,
Prince Rupert will bid farewell to the vessels that transit from the North Coast
to Alaska on September 30th

He probably won't be taking a Ferry to get there, but Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain is making plans to travel North to talk ferries in the week of September 16th.

That as he looks to seek out Alaskan politicians and transportation officials in hopes of reversing the decision to bring an end to the Alaska Marine Highway service that links Prince Rupert with Ketchikan.

The Mayor was most likely already planning to attend the Southeast Conference meetings, an event he attends each year and this time around is being hosted by Sitka from September 18th to 20th.

As part of his travels this year, he will bring some urgency to the discussions on Ferry matters as he seeks out state officials on the topic of the startling announcement of Wednesday, that brings an end to the service to Prince Rupert.

As we noted on Wednesday afternoon, the State of Alaska Transportation Office announced the end of the Prince Rupert service in a short information release, with the lack of an agreement for armed support for US Customs and Border Personnel the determining factor in the decision to cease operations to and from the North Coast.

The security situation was one previously noted by US Customs officials back in May when they reinforced their call for additional armed assistance at the Prince Rupert terminal

Yesterday, Mayor Brain took to his social media feed of Facebook to outline his thoughts on the issue, noting how it is a multi-jurisdictional situation, one that is very complex and with no easy answers.

Mr. Brain provided three key areas of note related to the AMHS issues

Mayor Brain's synopsis of the AMHS issues from his
Facebook post of Thursday

(click to enlarge)

And indeed the issues surrounding the AMHS service in Prince Rupert certainly have been vexing ones for Mr. Brain since he took office in 2014.

Despite numerous trips  by the Mayor to Alaska, as well as other conversations and correspondences on the themes of ferry service, since 2014 the situation seems to have gone into reverse.

Over the last five years there has been little progress found to the contentious issue of the need for a new Alaska Marine Highway Dock in Prince Rupert, once considered one of the Systems top priorities.

Service levels saw the schedule of sailings reduced drastically from 2014 to today; in recent years finding the AMHS vessels suspending service completely to Prince Rupert for periods from December through February.

And now, the service is to be terminated as of October 1st, bringing some six decades of a shared marine connection to Alaska to an end.

As part of his observations on Facebook, which you can review in full here, the Mayor notes that he will travel to Juneau to meet with officials in hopes of finding a solution.

I don't believe this is the end of the ferry service to Prince Rupert. I believe this issue can be solved. The demand for cross-border tourism and potential trade opportunities continue to be at the forefront of this conversation. 

I'm looking forward to my meetings in Alaska, and believe now is the time to solve this issue to ensure long term ferry service between our two nations.

And as Mayor Brain makes his way to Alaska, he may find some American politicians and tourism officials onboard with trying to find that solution towards the Customs and Border Protection policy that has led to the end of service decision.

Representative Dan Ortiz an Independent representing Ketchikan told radio station KRBD

“Access to Prince Rupert is critical a piece of the Alaska Marine Highway System particularly to southern Southeast Alaska, But it has implications throughout all of Alaska. So I’m not considering this a done deal at all.”

The Head of the Ketchikan Visitors' Bureau Patti Mackey also shared her concerns with the Ketchikan public radio station.

“Prince Rupert is Ketchikan’s sister city, and we’ve long had a good relationship, and they depend on the economic benefits of the ferry system as much as Ketchikan or any Alaskan community does,”

US Senator Lisa Murkowski's office also noted for the station that Ms. Murkowski was aware of the issue and her office "was coordinating with federal agencies involved to determine a path forward"

Through the last few days up and down the Alaskan panhandle the AMHS announcement has been a key topic of discussion.

Some of the comment and observations can be reviewed below:

Alaska says it can't meet Homeland Security mandate, will cut ferries to Canada
Prince Rupert ferry cancellation shocks community
Alaska Marine Highway System on longer sailing to Prince Rupert, British Columbia
Alaska to end ferry stops at Prince Rupert
AMHS ending service to Prince Rupert
AMHS ending service to Prince Rupert, BC
Alaska to end ferry service to Prince Rupert October 1st
Alaska's ferry system to end service to Prince Rupert British Columbia

For a look at many of the past issues of note related to the marine connection between Alaska and British Columbia see our archive page here.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

1 comment:

  1. It amazes me how the mayor racked up $33,000 in travel expenses last year with no reports of what he is doing.

    Alan Mullen chief of staff to BC speaker spent $13,000 on travel and is under serious scrutiny. When will council stand up to the mayor on his travel? Prince Rupert doesn’t have the resources the provincial government has.

    In this day and age a lot of stuff can be done with for example maybe a teleconference. It is also much more carbon friendly.

    How about using saved travel monies to re-establish grant money that was stripped away.