Alaska entrepreneur aims to introduce ‘wingships’ to Alaska
August 24, 2012
The Alaska tourism sector relies on cruise ships, airlines and the ferry for moving visitors around. Entrepreneurs offer other options.
- The cruiseship industry is critically important to the Alaska tourist sector. 58% of visitors, or 878,000 people come to Alaska by cruiseship.
- The Alaska state ferry system “Alaska Marine Highway” carries the vast majority of passengers seeking inter-city transportation year round. The ferries carry cars, trucks, motor homes and just regular foot passengers. A trip from Skagway to Juneau takes about 6 hours. The Alaska Marine Highway System has been operating year-round since 1963, with regularly scheduled passenger and vehicle service to 33 communities in Alaska, plus Bellingham, Washington, and Prince Rupert, British Columbia. There are currently eleven vessels in the AMHS fleet, additional ferries have been planned. During the past ten years the Alaska Marine Highway System has carried an average of 312,000 passengers and 98,000 vehicles per year.
- Alaska Fjordlines Inc. offers an express service between Skagway Alaska, Haines and Juneau. The swift catamaran (see photo) travels at twice the speed of the ferry and offers visitors plenty of opportunities for whale and sea mammal watching.
- Pacific Seaflight is planning to offer the first high-speed passenger ferry service employing wingships. Pacific Seaflight says it will be entering the marine transportation and tourism industry in Southeast Alaska as the initial market. Using fifty passenger wingship marine vessels, it will offer passenger, freight and sightseeing services between Juneau and other communities in Alaska’s Inside Passage. Wingships use Wing in Ground Effect (WIG) for a marine craft using ground effect as a means of lift. The wingships fly about 12 ’ in the air at speeds of almost 200km./hour. No date for service introduction has yet been set.
Alaska is still missing about 140,000 cruiseship passengers from its peak. It will be interesting to see if ‘wingships’ take flight in the future.