British Columbia

'It's devastating': Prince Rupert resident fears impact of Alaska ferry cancellation on family

Prince Rupert resident Nikki Humpherville was one of many locals whose heart sank last week when she heard the ferry service to Alaska would be cancelled Oct. 1. Her family has been using the ferry for years to visit family members, including her mother, in Metlakatla, Alaska.

'It connects us on a regular basis,' says Nikki Humpherville

Nikki Humpherville, far right, and the rest of her family have been using the ferry from Prince Rupert to Alaska for years to visit each other.

Prince Rupert resident Nikki Humpherville was one of many locals whose heart sank last week when she heard the ferry service to Alaska would be cancelled starting Oct. 1.

She has been using the ferry for years to visit her mom, Kathy Humpherville-Thompson, and her side of the family in Metlakatla, Alaska.

"It was very devastating. You know, we really don't know what we're going to go and do now without this ferry service being offered to us. It's pretty disheartening," said Humpherville. "It connects us on a regular basis."

The 37-year-old sails almost every month to visit her mom, 66, in Alaska. Humpherville has three kids, as well as three sisters who live in Kamloops that rely on the ferry to stay in touch with family members.

"I have spent my entire life going back and forth through summers and holidays with my mom and now I'm carrying that on as well to bring my children ... so, that's the only way that they get to see their grandmother really is from that ferry system."

Humpherville, left, and her mom, right, each hope to use the ferry one last time this month to visit each other before it's out of service. (Submitted by Nikki Humpherville)

U.S. officials decided to end ferry services to Prince Rupert because Canada was not able to meet a requirement by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to have Canadian law enforcement at the Prince Rupert terminal to protect American personnel doing passport and contraband checks. 

Meadow Bailey with the Alaska Department of Transportation told CBC last week that the RCMP did not have the staffing required. 

U.S. transportation officials have received multiple complaints from people who are upset with the news, he added. 

Limited options

For Humpherville and her family, there are few options to get to Metlakatla from the northern coastal B.C. city besides the ferry.

In the summer, there are two sailings a week out of Prince Rupert to Ketchikan, which is about 35 kilometres northeast of Metlakatla.

Without the ferry, Humpherville's only other options are to take a seaplane, which is weather dependent, or to fly through Vancouver or Seattle, which can be very expensive.

"So it's not an easy task," she told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk.

History of travel

Humpherville has been travelling to Metlakatla to visit since she was a young girl. Her parents met in the American town while her dad was playing basketball there with his team from Prince Rupert.

"That was kind of my version of a real love story. You know that ferry connected them," she said.

Her mom came to Prince Rupert after she married Humpherville's dad but moved back to Metlakatla in 2007 for family reasons.

"I hope that they can take into consideration all of the families that are going to be affected," said Humpherville.

"This has literally kept us connected. This is something that brought our family together even."

Her family is now looking into the possibility of buying a boat.

"We just don't know how we're going to do it. You know, we don't want to be stuck and not being able to see each other, or you know, if anything happens, we need that connection."

Humpherville said she and other community members are hopeful the ferry service cancellation isn't permanent.

For now though, her mother is using the ferry this week to come visit, and she is hoping to go to Metlakatla next week to see family and friends.

"Because we don't know when the next time might be," she said. 

The U.S. government is cancelling ferry service between Prince Rupert and Metlakatla, Alaska, which means Nikki Humpherville is losing the primary method she has for visiting family. 5:50

With files from Daybreak North and Estafania Duran

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