KETCHIKAN, Alaska — The Alaska Marine Highway System has cut 20 shore positions as officials deal with a scaled back budget.
In the past week, 14 people have been laid off in the ferry system, and other vacant positions were also cut.
Alaska Department of Transportation spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says customer service and ferry docking positions were cut at Petersburg, Cordova, Skagway, Haines, Valdez, Whittier, Kodiak and Bellingham terminals. One position was cut from the system’s headquarters.
“As a department, we did our best to try to find ways we could — if you had to eliminate positions, try to find vacant positions,” Woodrow said, “… but unfortunately there were people who were laid off.”
Woodrow said there are no more layoffs planned for fiscal year 2016, but more could come next year. Close to 60 positions were cut this year from DOT. The agency’s budget was reduced by 12.5 percent from last year.
“I think us in Southeast are going to have some challenges keeping the Alaska Marine Highway System in good financial position,” said Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka.
Stedman said he is concerned there doesn’t appear to be a clear plan for how to manage the marine highway system while Alaska deals with its budgetary issues.
“I know one thing: We’re in trouble with the marine highway, and we’re not in a strong political position throughout coastal Alaska,” he said.