Alaska Ferry Service to Prince Rupert, British Columbia Likely to Resume
September 17th, 2021
The last ferry for Prince Rupert left Ketchikan in late 2019. But state transportation officials say sailings could resume as early as next May.
First established in the 1960s, the 120-mile voyage is the shortest link between Southeast Alaska and the North American road system.
But around two years ago, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security demanded that its agents checking Alaska-bound vehicles and passengers inside the Prince Rupert ferry terminal be allowed to carry their sidearms or have an armed Canadian police presence.
That didn’t pan out and the ferry link was suspended.
The marine highway’s general manager John Falvey says state officials were working with federal officials in both countries to find a workaround after one of the last Canada-bound ferries sailed.
“And that stopped with COVID,” Falvey told CoastAlaska in a recent interview. “And the Canadians closed their border. And of course, we couldn’t get in for the last year and a half.”
The passage of a bilateral agreement signed in 2015 is now in force allowing U.S. agents to be armed on Canadian soil.
“U.S. pre-clearance officers are authorized to carry the same regulated items, defensive equipment, and restraint devices in Canada that (Canadian customs) officers are permitted to carry in the same operating environment,” Public Safety Canada spokesperson Tim Warrington said in a statement to CoastAlaska.
Once the Prince Rupert ferry terminal has been designated as a certified “pre-clearance” facility U.S. agents will have the same rights to carry weapons as their Canadian counterparts, officials in both countries say.
“CBP officers will be armed at Prince Rupert when operations are expected to resume May 2022 pending any delays or changes,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Rhonda M. Lawson wrote in a statement to CoastAlaska.
Falvey says there’s likely enough time to get the Prince Rupert terminal area to meet the standards of pre-clearance in time for weekly sailings between Ketchikan and Prince Rupert.
“We’re open to get going again — on May 1,” he said.