The federal Economic Development Administration has given the go-ahead for a grant application that could supply $5 million for a $10 million ship lift at Alaska Ship and Drydock.
ASD operates the Ketchikan Shipyard, which is owned by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. Bob Poe, AIDEA executive director, said last week that the EDA invited AIDEA in mid-May to apply for the grant.
A second lift would allow the shipyard to handle more than one vessel at a time, Poe said. "This is the kind of change that could be exponential."
The ship lift has been the single most difficult piece of the infrastructure to fund, said Doug Ward, director of shipyard development for ASD. He said a combination ship lift and launch would cost $10 million.
Ward said putting together the local and state funding to match the federal grant, if approved, would take "fairly significant effort from a number of people in the community."
But, he added, "This is an example of what the shipyard development fund is for."
That borough fund contains nearly $7 million, Ward said, which is intended to leverage state and federal grants.
The EDA said it would respond to the grant application within 60 days of its receipt. It could be two years after that before the shiplift is operating, Ward said.
City Mayor Bob Weinstein said the city, borough, state and ASD agreed in a meeting early last week that the ship lift is "the most important thing" for the development of the shipyard.
The shipyard employs 55 people full time, Ward said.
He said he doesn't know what effect the latest encouragement from the EDA will have on the shipyard's efforts to extend its lease with AIDEA, but he hoped it would be positive.
The lease expires in July, and ASD "would like a long-term operational agreement," he said.
Meanwhile, Ward said ASD also expects approval soon from the U.S. Department of Labor for a shipyard workers training program conducted by the University of Alaska Southeast and the National Shipbuilding Research Project.
The Ketchikan Shipyard has been chosen as a pilot project to demonstrate the use of national shipbuilding training standards now being adopted by the industry, Ward said.
The shipyard has been involved in developing the standards since 1996, he said.