Southeast Alaska residents will have to wait until 2013 before a new independent ferry service gets up and running.

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Officials with the Rain Forest Island Ferry say the organization’s converted oil rig supply vessel will not be ready to start service between Coffman Cove, Wrangell, South Mitkof Island, Saxman and Meyers Chuck until next spring. The North End Ferry Authority purchased the 160-foot Ashley Alyse McCall from SEACOR Marine this past March and hoped to have it operating this summer.

Courtesy of the North End Ferry Authority

Kent Miller, manager of the Coffman Cove-based authority, said overhauling the vessel is going to take longer than expected. “The delay has been caused by finding more work to do on the boat than we anticipated and having to take more time to get the plans and specs ready,” he said.

The authority received a three million dollar loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and spent about two million of that on the purchase of the ship. Miller said the remaining money will pay to overhaul the vessel, including the possibility of replacing the engines.

“We’ve had to make the decision whether to in the request for bids ask for overhaul of the present engines or whether to use either reconditioned engines, they’re called recons, it’s a trade in of an existing high hours engine for one that has been thoroughly rebuilt,” Miller said.

Other work will include replacement generators and installation of a food service area. Miller said he’s very hopeful that the remaining U.S.D.A. loan money will cover the needed work. He added the authority is disappointed not to get started this year. “I think the feeling is that its going to start and that its better to do a good job of it than to rush it,” he said.

The North End Ferry Authority is the second independent ferry operation in Southeast, formed by municipalities seeking improved transportation to Prince of Wales Island. It’s seeking in part to replace service offered for several years by the Inter-Island Ferry Authority. That organization now only offers a daily run between Hollis and Ketchikan.

The North End authority will begin advertising this month for a company to do the overhaul and plans a deadline in mid July for those bids. The authority’s board meets this month to decide on the new projected start-up date for next year.