LeConte repairs to be worked out in Ketchikan

Posted: Friday, May 21, 2004

Towed behind a tugboat, the state ferry LeConte arrived at the Ketchikan Ship Yards for repairs on Thursday morning, said state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nona Wilson.

She said it is expected to be put in dry-dock Monday.

"We were really pleased the ship could withstand the transport to Ketchikan," she said.

Through the nearly three-day trip, air bubbles under the ferry's bow kept water out.

The Alaska Marine Highway ferry was grounded May 10 on Cozian Reef, about 30 miles north of Sitka. This week, marine highway officials and Coast Guard investigators attributed the accident to human error.

The length of time it will take to repair the ship depends on what crews find after they raise the ferry out of the water, Wilson said.

Even after the repairs have been completed, the LeConte will undergo trials to make sure it can perform as required. That's the same test it would go through if it were new to the marine highway system, Wilson said.

First, a plan will have to be worked out to support the ship on blocks in the dry-dock, Wilson said.

The 235-foot-long LeConte weighs more than 1,300 tons and has a "blocking plan" on file for repairs. However, the plan will need to be modified so that areas that need to be repaired are accessible, Wilson added.

After the blocking plan is worked out, the LeConte will be brought into the submerged dry-dock area, she explained. It will work much like a canal lock. As the water escapes, workers will make sure the ship is correctly situated on the blocks.

Wilson said the state-owned facility is a full-service repair and maintenance ship yard built in the 1980s to repair marine highway ferries. The company that runs it, Alaska Ship and Dry Dock, is a private contractor.

Wilson said there is no way of telling how much the repairs will cost.

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