Thursday, January 18, 2007

In a polite way, we're saying "Show us the Money".

“We are looking to restore a lease structure closer to the market rate and arrangement closer to what we had before.’"

In other words, it’s been ten years now, it’s time to forgive and forget and maybe pay a little bit more.

The renegotiation of lease arrangements for the Alaska Marine Highway have begun between the City and the US ferry corporation, with the city hoping to receive a more rewarding return on their point of entry site.

The current arrangement which is considered a rather sweet deal for the Alaskans came about after the 1997 blockade of the MV Malaspina by over 130 Canadian fishing boats. The three day blockade which held 328 passengers and 71 vehicles locked into port soured relations between the city and the state of Alaska (and led to the naming of this blog by the way) with threats of eliminating the service to Prince Rupert completely.

In the end, the city offered the Alaskans a deal that they couldn’t refuse and the Alaskans chose to maintain their southern terminal at Fairview Bay. That lease now almost ten years old is the subject of discussions now between the city and Alaska.

Also on the back burner, but of equal importance is the possibility of a daily shuttle service between Lax Kw’alaams and Ketchikan, a service that would require some 70 million dollars in road work to be a feasible alternative to the current set up locally.

The Daily News reviewed the issue in its Tuesday edition.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Wednesday, January 16, 2007
Pages one and three

The city has begun renegotiating its lease with the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) more than 10 years after it offered the U. S. Ferry Corporation a sweetheart deal to keep it in
B. C. waters

The city met with officials from the AMHS for the first time last week

Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond said at this point the negotiations are at an early stage.

“It was the first face-to-face meeting for both parties,’ said Pond, “Both parties are now going away to look at what they need to do.”

Pond explained the lease under renegotiation was signed by the city after the 1997 blockade that stemmed from an international dispute over Pacific salmon. An estimated 130 Canadian fishing boats surrounded the state-owned ferry M/V Malaspina. Some 328 passengers and 71 vehicles were prevented from leaving Rupert.

Canadian fishers ended their blockade three days later but the governor of Alaska suspended ferry service to the community for six months.

The result was that the city negotiated with the Alaskans to restart service and agreed to take a financial loss on the lease of the marine facilities.

For the past decade, the dock and land have been leased by the city from the Prince Rupert Port Authority on behalf of the AMHS.

“We are looking to restore a lease structure closer to the market rate and arrangement closer to what we had before,’ said Pond.

The city, under its former arrangement, was also responsible for the upkeep of the marine facilities. Last fall, the city ended up paying close to $300,000 to fix some pilings that would not have survived the winter storms.

As part of negotiating the new lease, Pond said both Alaskan ferry officials and the city are working toward ways that will see the traffic coming to and from Prince Rupert grow.

“The numbers have dwindled over the last few years,” said Pond.

“We are looking at how we can put our marketing forces together.”

Fortunately, while AMHS officials were in town, there was also a large delegation from B. C. Ferries and the two were able to get together for talks.

They had some joint meetings about how they could work together and how the city fits in so everyone gets more value,’ said Pond.

“I think everyone walked away very happy,”

The AMHS dock and facility is located on the northwest side of town, right next to he B. C. Ferries terminal.

Prince Rupert is the gateway not only north to Alaska but also south along the Inside Passage.

The AMHS Prince Rupert stop is the only stop between Seattle, Washington and Ketchikan, Alaska.

There is also still some discussion about developing a gateway shuttle on the AMHS that would do daily runs between Lax Kw’alaams and Ketchikan.

However, that would require a road to be built between Lax Kw’alaams and Digby Island, which is a $70 million proposal

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