The Juneau Docks and Harbors board has given the green-light to build a pair of cruise ship docks for $53.74 million in downtown Juneau.
Seattle-based Manson Construction Company won the project with a bid of $53.74 million, nearly $2 million less than initial estimates, and will now be expected to have the project completed in time for the 2017 summer tourism season. The southern berth will be ready for the 2016 season.
“We want to have a port that serves the industry needs, and the needs of the industry are for larger berths,” said Carl Uchytil, the City and Borough of Juneau’s port director. “The existing facilities are woefully inadequate for the vessels we see coming into Juneau now.”
Originally, the work was to begin this September, which would mean the project would be completed by summer of 2016, but a large concrete project in Washington state has one of the main concrete fabrication facilities in the region unable to take on more work, Uchytil said.
“We accepted a late start so we could have competitive bids within the marine construction industry in the Pacific Northwest,” he said.
Four companies originally expressed interest, but two of them were deemed unqualified by city officials to take on the project.
Even though work is not set to begin on-site for about 18 months, the bid is firm-fixed — meaning the contractor must get the job done at that price regardless of material cost fluctuations, Uchytil said.
“Once we award it, that’s what they have to build it for,” he said. “Sometimes there are unknown costs that contractors brings up, but as far as materials and labor, that’s what it’ll cost.”
Uchytil added that the delayed start should not have a significant impact on the tourism industry in Juneau.
“We’re building infrastructure to meet the needs of the community for decades to come,” Uchytil said. “We’re going to see larger ships, and now Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway will have capacity to service post-panamax ships once this is all built.”
The bid award will be forwarded to the Assembly Monday for the governing body’s final stamp of approval, but that is not an avenue for “people to come in and say it shouldn’t be awarded,” Uchytil said.
“All that debate has already happened,” he added.
If Juneau had opted against building the expanded cruise ship docking structures, Uchtyl said, there could have been financial consequences considering the city’s dependence on the large amount of revenue tourists bring to town each summer.
“If we didn’t pursue the modernization of our facilities, the vessels would go where they can find the right facilities,” Uchytil said. “So they would have been staying for shorter stops or they could bypass Juneau altogether.”