Alaska’s 740,000 residents live in hundreds of communities, many of which are spread over more than 33,000 miles of coastline and 2,670 named islands.
The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) plays a key role connecting coastal communities and provides year-round ferry services between Bellingham (WA) and Dutch Harbor. Operated by the State of Alaska, the AMHS is part of the National Highway system and is a critical contributor to the Alaskan economy. From the vast quantity of goods shipped between hubs to the 350,000 residents and tourists that travel from port to port, the AMHS is a critical part of the State’s infrastructure.
Last weekend, NII Principal Ian Dutton, who has contributed to marine education and training initiatives throughout Alaska, attended the christening of Alaska’s newest State ferry. The M/V Tazlina (all Alaskan ferries are named after glaciers) has the capacity to transport 300 passengers and 53 vehicles at 16 knots.
Built by Vigor Alaska, the M/V Tazlina represents a highwater mark in State maritime engineering – she is the first ferry built in Alaska. Following a considerable long-term investment in shipyard and workforce development (see http://labor.state.ak.us/maritimeplan/), Alaska now has the capacity to support a diverse range of maritime industries more directly and cost-effectively.
A sister ship, the M/V Hubbard, is close to completion in the Vigor shipyard and is due to be launched into service in 2019.