||This article needs to be updated. (September 2015)|
The Fairweather approaching Auke Bay near Juneau, Alaska.
|Namesake:||Fairweather Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska|
|Owner:||Alaska Marine Highway System|
|Port of registry:||United States|
|Maiden voyage:||June 8, 2004|
|Class and type:||Det Norske Veritas catamaran ro-ro ferry|
|Tonnage:||748 long tons|
|Length:||235 ft (72 m)|
|Draft:||8' 6" loaded|
|Decks:||One vehicle deck|
|Installed power:||15,360 shp|
|Notes:||Aft and starboard ro-ro loading|
It was built by Derecktor Shipyards in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 2003 and 2004, and began service on June 8 of the latter year. It is powered by four diesel engines and water jets for a service speed of 32 knots which is only matched in the ferry system by its younger sister ship, the M/V Chenega.
Mechanical, operational and administrative problems
The Fairweather's highly anticipated entry into the ferry system, however, was plagued with problems. First a log was sucked into a water jet disabling one of four waterjets until the log was removed by divers during the evening maintenance period. Several months later, in December 2004, the Fairweather was then hit by a rogue wave en route to Juneau from Haines in Lynn Canal during a winter storm. The winds reported at Eldred Rock on that day exceeded 60 knots, a relatively common event on this route, and were outside of the vessel's normal operational limits. The wave damaged the forward portion of the hull (center portion between the twin hulls well above the waterline) and the ferry was out of service for two weeks. Later, in 2005, labor negotiations put the boat out of service for a considerable amount of time. The variety of problems experienced by the Fairweather has garnered comparisons to the PacifiCat Series ferries that were unsuccessfully operated by the British Columbia ferry system. The most recent problems that have stricken the vessel have occurred to the vessel's propulsion systems:
- The number one main engine was replaced as a warranty repair when improperly assembled exhaust system components came loose in the "V" of the engine causing loose components to wear into the block resulting in a jacket water leakage into the exhaust system.
- All four main engines were repaired by machining the engine blocks and installing oversized liners to correct a corrosion problem in the cylinder liners' upper landing area caused by incorrect jacket water coolant that was recommended by the engine manufacturer.
- All four reduction gears were removed for repairs — cracks on the bull gear and excessive bearing housing clearances.
- Despite all repairs and modifications made to the ship's engines, significant erosion continues and the State of Alaska has entered into a lawsuit against the builders and alleges that the engines do not meet the accepted design and warranty specifications.
The Fairweather was originally planned to exclusively create a Sitka-Juneau high speed ferry link, with the ferry homeported in Sitka. However, the state changed its plans and decided to homeport the ferry in Juneau, creating an uproar in Sitka. Unlike mainline and feeder vessels that operate 24 hours a day, the Fairweather (and Chenega) are day boats only, thus offering a complement of jobs and economic stimulus to whichever community homeports the boat. Eventually the Fairweather's planned route was changed again to serve the Lynn Canal (Haines and Skagway route four days a week and Sitka-Juneau three days a week). This route was used throughout 2004 and the summer season of 2005. However, the state decided to change the ferry's route again for the winter 2005 schedule and run the Fairweather on an exclusive Juneau-Petersburg route. This is coordinated with the M/V Chenega running a dedicated Ketchikan-Wrangell-Petersburg route to effectively create a marine link between Ketchikan and Juneau in the winter season. Since 2006, the Fairweather has returned to serving Haines, Skagway, and Sitka from its port in Juneau.
- Marine Log.com vessel portrait: M/V Fairweather
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to MV Fairweather.|