- Associated Press - Thursday, June 15, 2017

PETERSBURG, Alaska (AP) - The largest vessel in the Alaska Marine Highway fleet will not meet its scheduled return to service.

The 418-foot (127-meter) ferry Columbia was due to return June 28 with service from Washington to Alaska, but propeller repairs will leave it docked in Portland, Oregon, Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said Tuesday.

“So there were some extensive repairs that needed to be done to the propeller system,” she said. “That requires a lot of lead time. The parts are manufactured in Germany and then there’s obviously the installation of the parts afterward. So it took a while to make those repairs. And then we went and thought the repairs were successful, and were testing the vessel, and during that test, there was another mechanical failure related to that newly installed propeller system.”

Bailey said the ferry will be pulled back out of the water with a new target return date of July 26.

The 408-foot (124-meter) ferry Malaspina has been filling in on the Columbia’s route and will continue to do so, KFSK.org reported (https://bit.ly/2ruVyjt ).

Bailey said there will be some impacts to people who have booked passage on the Columbia in June and July.

“The impacts, though, are that the Malaspina is smaller and therefore there’s going to be some passengers who had made reservations in a cabin and they will not be able to get those reserved cabins and there’s also, because the deck is smaller, we won’t be able to carry as many vehicles so there are some vehicles reservations that we’re going to have to have to cancel,” she explained. “So absolutely there are some impacts to passengers.”

The Columbia, which was built in 1974, can accommodate just less than 500 passengers and 133 vehicles.

The Columbia was stuck last July in Petersburg with mechanical problems, stranding nearly 200 passengers. It was also pulled from service due to propeller damage in August 2015, after striking a log in the water.

The ferry system announced earlier this month another vessel, the Tustamena, would also be late returning from repairs.

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