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Alaska Editorial: Ready, not waiting

Posted: February 8, 2013 - 1:08am

This editorial first ran in the Ketchikan Daily News:

As Ketchikan Shipyard develops, it continues to fill its dance card with ship repair and building projects for the new year.

The Alaska-owned shipyard, operated by Alaska Ship and Drydock, will deliver its first completed project from its new assembly and production hall in May 2013, with Alaska Longline Company’s fishing vessel Arctic Prowler.

The late John Winther of Petersburg brought the project to the shipyard, paving the way for Alaska Ship and Drydock to build other vessels for the state’s commercial fishing industry.

The shipyard had to push the reset button after the state called off the Alaska Class Ferry project late last year. But the shipyard is seeking new contracts in order to fill the assembly hall after Prowler’s departure.

At least two possibilities exist, and ASD officials say one or both of those will be made known to the public, ideally in a week or a month’s time.

One of those projects could carry the shipyard’s ship-building schedule until the state Department of Transportation presents the design concept and moves ahead with the ferries it would like to replace the Alaska Class Ferry project. State officials, particularly Gov. Sean Parnell and DOT Commissioner Pat Kemp, told Alaskans in December that the state could build two smaller ships for the price of one Alaska Class Ferry for less than what the latter would cost. The latest figure offered for those two ships is $49.5 million each.

ASD officials are waiting for those ships’ design, expecting the state to proceed with the same sort of contract that had been agreed upon by the two parties, which would allow the ships to be built in Ketchikan. It would be the same type of contract, the same type of work; only the ship design would be different.

Meanwhile, the shipyard continues its ship repair.

It has the fleet maintenance contract for the Alaska Marine Highway System for all but two ships.

Three of the ferries — Chenega, Columbia and Taku — still need to be brought into the yard for the U.S.-Coast-Guard-required annual inspections in time to be returned to the state’s ferry schedule this spring.

The Inter-Island Ferry Authority has the MV Prince of Wales scheduled for shipyard maintenance before spring, according to shipyard officials. Plus, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s airport ferry, Oral Freeman, will be in for maintenance and a new paint job.

The shipyard continues to court the oil and gas industry. That industry has projects of the size Ketchikan’s shipyard could accommodate.

The shipyard contracted with Kenai Drilling, LLC to do maintenance and repairs on the jack-up drill rig Endeavor. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority has a sizable investment in the rig, which is moored at the Homer Spit.

ASD is sending an “away team” of electricians and welders to prepare the rig for drilling in Cook Inlet.

The shipyard also is moving to increase its business from south. The Prince Rupert, British Columbia, port is expanding, and with it, its tug and barge fleet.

Prince Rupert’s closest shipyard — other than Ketchikan’s — is in Vancouver, British Columbia, which is expected to be at capacity, leaving overflow for Ketchikan. Plus, Ketchikan’s yard will have a competitive advantage in terms of geography.

Congressman Don Young is scheduled to be in Ketchikan in March to dedicate the shipyard’s new assembly and production hall.

Meanwhile, a new steel shop is being built. The shop will allow the shipyard to improve its efficiency by building ship modules next to the production hall. The shop is scheduled to be completed in the fall, bringing the shipyard to a nearly fully developed facility.

The shipyard has a request in to the state Legislature for $7.3 million for equipment to optimize operations. The equipment includes such items as cranes. The funds also would pay for a new dock and update the yard’s power supply.

The next shipyard development project would be the addition of a ship-repair hall. Currently, all repairs occur out of doors. Once this is funded and completed, then all of the shipyard’s operations would be in covered facilities.

This has been the goal of the community in regard to developing the shipyard for the past 30 years.

The shipyard will seek funding for the ship-repair hall in another legislative session.

The shipyard has 142 core employees. It adds as many as another 22 employees when extra labor is needed for specific projects.

The purchase of ASD by Vigor Industrial out of Portland, Ore., this past year has resulted in it investing its capital into the yard as well. That’s the operator’s contribution to the state-owned shipyard.

Vigor also has the credibility that helps in convincing other marine-related businesses to locate offices in Ketchikan, boosting the economy bit by bit.

Additionally, the Ketchikan Marine Industry Council, a partnership between Ketchikan’s marine businesses and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, has formed to identify and promote Ketchikan’s marine opportunities. Possible customers, particularly those in oil and gas, need to know how the Ketchikan area can accommodate their business needs. KMIC’s website is at http://ketchikanmarineindustry.com.

Ketchikan and its shipyard aren’t waiting for the marine and shipyard business to come to them. They’re taking the initiative; they’re making moves. They’re ready to dance.

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