ANCHORAGE (AP) -- One of Alaska's regional Native corporations is hoping to advance the cause of science while at the same time profit from the state's extensive coastline and wealth of sea creatures.
Ahtna Inc. has invested around $2 million in a surplus Navy ship that was used by the University of Hawaii for marine research.
The Glennallen-based corporation plans to use the 210-foot ''Moana Wave'' for oceanographic projects in Alaska waters and elsewhere.
''It's a bluewater vessel that can go anywhere. It has conducted marine research around the world, including two visits to Antarctica,'' said Ed Cronick, president of Ahtna subsidiary Clearwater Group Inc.
The Moana Wave comes with two laboratories, cabin space for 19 scientists and 14 crew members, an extensive computer system and expansive deck space for a wide variety of research.
The ship became available after the University of Hawaii received federal money for a newer, larger vessel, Cronick said.
The ship currently is at work mapping a subsea fiber-optic cable route for a New Jersey company. It will be available for Alaska projects once that project ends next year.
Contracts could range from sunken vessel recovery to marine mammal and weather research, Cronick said.
''There's no question that there's a need for a vessel like this if indeed it has wet and dry labs,'' said Bob Small, marine mammal coordinator for the state Department of Fish and Game.
Ahtna shareholders could benefit, too.
The corporation is working with the University of Alaska to create shareholder training programs aboard the ship with the goal of exposing some of Ahtna's 1,200 shareholders to possible careers in science, navigation or ship operations, said Ahtna president and chief executive officer Darryl Jordan.
The university is developing training opportunities on the ship that would tie into an academic program, said Joyce Helens, executive director of corporate programs at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Acquiring the Moana Wave is another step in Ahtna's move to diversify its revenue sources, Jordan told the Anchorage Daily News.
Ahtna owns about 1.5 million acres in the Copper River area. With nine subsidiaries and seven joint ventures, Ahtna is involved in environmental services, gravel, pipeline maintenance, real estate management, construction, facilities maintenance, administration, janitorial services, food services and electrical contracting.
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