Unlike some of her older sister ships, the Kennicott did not experience the trouble in its engine or propulsion systems. Rather, it was one of it was one of its more modern pieces of equipment that experienced problems: the vehicle elevator.
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Capt. Mike Neussl, who’s serving his last week as the Deputy Commissioner of Marine Operations, says the Coast Guard issued a “no sail” order when the elevator broke down. Neussl says the elevator is the only way vehicles can get on and off the Kennicott in ports that lack a floating dock.
“It allows vehicles that are on a fixed dock – that doesn’t vary with the tide – to drive on to the elevator platform of the ship and then be lowered down into the hold of the ship. It spins on a turntable so they can drive up into the forward part of the ship, and then the reverse coming off. They drive on to the elevator and are lifted to whatever level based on the tide at that time – up three floors or four floors – to get level with the dock so they can drive off.”The vehicle elevator is an unfamiliar sight for anyone who doesn’t live in Yakutat, Kodiak, or the several other ports in the Marine Highway system that have fixed docks. The only other ferry with an elevator is the Tustumena. Neussl says you may have stood on the Kennicott’s elevator, and not realized it.
“It’s fairly well-integrated into the ship. You wouldn’t actually know that there’s an elevator there because when it’s stored there are railings and you can walk around all the decks. It’s not like you’re climbing across a car elevator or anything. But it is there, and designed to work at those fixed-dock locations.”
The Marine Highway flew technicians to Yakutat to make the fix. Neussl hasn’t learned the exact nature of the repair, except that it’s expected to be permanent, and require no further work. The Kennicott left Yakutat at about 11:30 PM last Wednesday – about 48 hours behind schedule — bound for Whittier across the Gulf of Alaska. Passengers directly affected by the delay have already been notified. People planning a trip on the Kennicott in the near future should check with the Alaska Marine Highway central reservations office (800-642-0066) for updated schedule information.