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M/V Tustumena returns to the Aleutians

tustumena_ferry.jpg
Hope McKenney
/
KUCB
The M/V Tustumena in Dutch Harbor.

The M/V Tustumena returns to service this week. That’s the only Alaska Marine Highway System ferry that sails between all 13 ports of call out the Aleutian Chain.

The Kennicott has been the only ferry sailing to the Aleutians since the nearly 60-year-old Tusty went into the shipyard for repairs back in December.

The Tustumena’s first sailing since then will be on Saturday, July 16, when it departs Homer on its way to Kodiak.

The Tusty will make its first Aleutian run down the chain on July 21, arriving in Dutch Harbor July 23.

“The Kennicott’s been pulling double duty trying to fill in for Tustumena, but obviously it doesn’t provide as many runs as the Tustumena’s normal schedule so it will be nice to have that boat back out there and doing what it does best,” said Sam Dapcevich, a representative for the Alaska Department of Transportation.

The Kennicott was able to serve most of the Tustumena’s port calls, but not all. Several communities in the Aleutians have had to skip ferry service all-together because the Kennicott is too large to make it into their smaller ports.

This month will be the first time Akutan and False Pass will have service this year. That’s a major hit to the Eastern Aleutian communities who rely on ferry service.

A replacement is in the works for the aging Tustumena, but the more than $200 million project isn’t expected to be completed for another five years.

Dapcevich says DOT hopes to begin construction on the replacement vessel next year.

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  • The M/V Kennicott will replace the Tustumena on some of its summer sailings, but the Aleutians are going to take a big hit. Passengers on the May ferry can still ride, but the replacement ship is too large to dock at Akutan and False Pass. That means there will be no ferry service to those communities until the Tustumena is repaired in July, and the June sailing has been cancelled altogether.
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