Should ferry system be turned over to private enterprise?
Some stakeholders say yes and work on a potential model is underway
The Alaska Marine Highway System is owned and run by the Alaska Dept. of Transportation.
(AP) Stakeholders in a project to reimagine the Alaska Marine Highway System are preparing to pitch their plan to turn the system into a public corporation.
The committee leading the Southeast Conference effort to change the struggling ferry system met via conference call last week with commissioners of the Alaska Department of Transportation to discuss their plan to create a public corporation similar to the Alaska Railroad Corp, The Ketchikan Daily News reported.
DOT Commissioner Marc Luiken said he still has some questions about the plan, but it makes sense to transition the ferry system to a public corporation.
"My personal opinion is having a board of directors that is overseeing a corporation that is fiduciarily responsible to that organization and the state will ... ultimately to make it run more like a business and operate like a business and have the ability to have the agility, and businesses tend to have to make sound decisions, again, for the long-term," Luiken told the steering committee. "I'm sticking my neck out a little bit, but I think it would make sense for us to look to make - to work to transition to a model that looks like that."
Map from AMHS Website
The first phase of the work, recommending the new governance model, is expected to be completed before the end of the year, according to Robert Venables, Southeast Conference's lead on the reform project.
Officials have been considering the transition since May, when Southeast Conference signed a memorandum of understanding with Gov. Bill Walker and secured $250,000 from DOT for the work.
The recommendation to change comes after studying other ferry systems, including BC Ferries in British Columbia, the Steamship Authority in Massachusetts and CalMac Ferries in Scotland.
Next year, Southeast Conference and its consultants will begin having formal meetings with the DOT and lawmakers to map out a long-term plan for the system.