SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Governor Praises Shipyard For Achievements
Cutting edge of technology starting in Ketchikan
By Dick Kauffman


July 23, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - Referring to the new $28 million high-tech vessel the Alaska Ship and Drydock has been chosen to build for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Governor Frank H. Murkowski said, "It's pretty exciting. The cutting edge of technology is starting out right here in Ketchikan."

Speaking to employees at the Alaska Ship and Drydock recently during a visit to Ketchikan, Governor Murkowski said constructing this unique loading and unloading vessel could really establish - particularly with the military - an opportunity. "The fact that you folks are given the challenge of putting this together is certainly a testimony to your capabilities and expertise," said Murkowski.

jpg Governor Murkowski

Governor Murkowski & Rep. Jim Elkins at the Schoenbar Middle School Project site, July 14th. In addition to visiting the Alaska Ship and Drydock, Governor Murkowski also toured the on-going Schoenbar Middle School construction project, and attended a community barbecue at the local A&P Market.
Photo By Dick Kauffman

The vessel that Murkowski was referring to is the new high-tech shape-shifting vessel the shipyard will be constructing for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The construction is funded by the Office of Naval Research and the United States Navy will be working with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to test the vessel by putting it to work ferrying workers and materials in the construction of the Knik Arm Bridge.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough selected Lockheed Martin Corporation as the contractor to engineer and complete the preliminary design of the vessel and Guido Perle & Associates is completing the final design of the vessel. Alaska Ship and Drydock in Ketchikan was selected to build this high-tech "barge" and "high speed" mode vessel.

The design in this new ferry incorporates commercial lift boat technology that will allow the ferry to change from the SWATH mode to a barge mode. The boat will be able to lower and raise its center deck and in the barge mode it could be used as a landing craft and would require little infrastructure for docking.

In the barge mode, the vessel operates with as little as 3 feet of draft, while in the high-speed mode, the vessel may operate in sea state 4 and travel at 20+ knots. The vessel will demonstrate new naval technologies that may be used in the next generation of military landing craft according to project information.

Among the assortment of benefits and uses of the new ferry listed by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the ferry will shorten commute time between Port MacKenzie and Anchorage; brings high-tech manufacturing jobs to Alaska; would provide emergency response capabilities to support the Ted Stevens International Airport; and would be used to ferry workers and materials in the construction of the Knik Arm Bridge.

jpg barge mode

Barge mode
Graphic courtesy Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Known as an E-craft (Expeditionary Craft) by the military, the Lockheed Martin design calls for twin submerged hulls supported by short struts which should perform well in a variety of sea conditions. The vessel is designed to push through broken ice and could break up to 2 feet of ice. This waterplance area twin hull technology is also known as SWATH, an acronym meaning Small-Waterplane-Area Twin-Hull.

The VariCraft, the name given to the design by Lockheed Martin, will accommodate about 20 vehicles and 100 passengers. Crossings between Point MacKenzie and Ship Creek in Anchorage would take approximately 25 minutes including loading and unloading. The vessel would be under construction this summer at the Ketchikan shipyard and is expected to be in operation by late 2007.

When asked by the Governor when work was expected to begin on the new ferry Doug Ward, project manager of the Ketchikan shipyard, said they would be starting the project soon with the final designs expected in September. Guido Perle & Associates is completing the final design of the vessel.

Murkowski said. "I can't tell you how much interest there is in this vessel you folks will build." He said the Ketchikan shipyard is having an impact all over the state.

"We'll be watching this pretty closely. Hopefully everybody is convinced that it will work. When you depart from a design and do something entirely different there are certain risks to it," said Murkowski.

"You folks are doing extraordinarily well and we're very proud of you," said Governor Murkowski.

This is the second marine vessel that the Ketchikan Shipyard will build. The first vessel was the ferry Oral Freeman for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

When asked by the Governor the number of employees working at the shipyard Doug Ward, project manager of the Ketchikan shipyard, said, "We're running a winter time average of a littler over 100 workers now." He said in five to six years when they are filled out they would triple that number to 300 to 350 workers.

Another area address by the Governor was the new dry dock. In August 2002, AIDEA was awarded a $5 million grant from the Economic Development Agency (EDA) for adding a second ship lift. Ward said Ketchikan Ship & Drydock's new 2,500-ton floating dry-dock will be built by a Chinese firm. The new floating dry-dock will provide the Ketchikan Ship & Drydock, additional shiplift capacity on the drydocks and will allow for the transfer of ships onto land and into a covered facility.

jpg SWATH mode

SWATH mode
Graphic courtesy Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Bids for the new dry dock were opened in June 2005 and January 2006 and rejected both times. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) and the Penglai Bohai Ship Co. finalized a $9.2 million deal in June 2006. The new dry-dock is expected to be delivered by the end of July 2007. Funding for the project is a combination of state and federal money.

The AIDEA Development Plan also includes options for future growth at the facility. The state-owned shipyard has other planned improvements that include: a covered fabrication area, employee facilities, dry-dock cover and office space, upgrades to support vessel repair activities, upland vessel rail transport system, vessel hull washing system, pier-side crane, and various material handling and storage additions.

According to AIDEA, the $40 million of improvements proposed in the most recent Development Plan will increase shipyard efficiency and production capacity and improve services, ultimately creating a commercially viable shipyard and increased employment for the long-term.

The Governor said, "I remember when the Legislature first put this concept together to have our own shipyard in Ketchikan". He said, "Of course at that time it was underfunded and they didn't have the expertise and management capability or for that matter, the dedicated crafts persons like you are."

When the shipyard was first established in Ketchikan in the 1980's, the Alaska Department of Transportation ( DOT/PF) spent approximately $38 million to construct the shipyard facility to be capable of providing maintenance for the Alaska Marine Highway System. At that time, under an agreement with the state, the City of Ketchikan subleased operation and management of the shipyard to private contractors. Each operator experienced operational and financial difficulties and in 1991, the state canceled its lease with the City of Ketchikan and closed the shipyard facility for two years.

In November 1993, the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities ( DOT/PF) awarded an operating contract to reopen the facility and to manage Alaska Marine Highway System overhaul projects. In July 1997, DOT/PF transferred title of the facility to Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) and the Department of Transportation committed to perform, on average, a minimum of $300,000 a year of work at the Ketchikan Shipyard for ferry overhauls and refurbishment for a period of three years.

AIDEA, the City of Ketchikan and the Ketchikan Borough negotiated an agreement that described each party's contributions to supporting the shipyard. Recently a new long term intergovernmental agreement among AIDEA, the City of Ketchikan and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough was executed in September 2005. A new shipyard operating agreement with Alaska Ship and Drydock went into effect December 1, 2005.

Murkowski said the whole community supports the shipyard. It's taken a long time coming. The important thing is that the Alaska Ship and Drydock is competitive. And if you're not competitive, you don't get to work said Murkowski.

"It's a pretty exciting time to be in Alaska. The state's going to start moving and we're going to do it with solid, responsible resource development," said Murkowski. To the Alaska Ship & Drydock employees Murkowski said, "You folks are going to play a major part of it down in this part of the country."



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