Grant aids Ketchikan shipyard expansion

Posted: Tuesday, September 03, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded a $5 million economic development grant, the largest in the nation this year, to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to finance half the cost of a second shiplift for the Ketchikan Shipyard. AIDEA owns the yard.

The second lift will allow the yard to handle several repair jobs at the same time, according to Doug Ward, business development director for Alaska Ship and Drydock, Inc., which operates the yard for AIDEA.

The yard now has a single 10,000-ton floating dry dock. When the dry dock is in use, no other jobs can be taken on, Ward said.

The $5 million Economic Development Administration grant must be matched by state or local sources, but matching funds have been lined up, he said.

With second shiplift is the largest item in the capital development plan for the Ketchikan yard.

''This will go a long way toward completing the development of the shipyard,'' Jim McMillan, acting director of AIDEA, told the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

Ninety-five percent of the vessels now working in Alaska waters are 250 feet in length or less, and operators believe the second shiplift will greatly expand the Ketchikan yard's capability to tap that market.

Additional facilities needed to make the yard more efficient include a unit to move vessels while maintenance is under way and a shelter over the work area to allow repairs to be done during bad weather, Ward said.

One of the reasons the Ketchikan yard won the grant is that it fit well in the Commerce Department's strategy to encourage ''industry clusters,'' according to Ward.

The Ketchikan shipyard has had its ups and downs. The state built the facility for major maintenance on state ferries, contracting its operation to private companies. A previous operator failed to make the yard pay, and the yard was closed in the early 1990s.

It was reopened in 1994 with the current operator, Alaska Ship & Drydock, and the ownership was transferred from the state Dept. of Transportation and Public Facilities to AIDEA in 1997.

AIDEA officials met last week with Ketchikan Gateway Borough and City of Ketchikan officials regarding a possible transfer of ownership of the yard from the state development authority to the local municipalities.

But AIDEA has extended the lease of the shipyard to Alaska Ship & Drydock until Oct. 15, 2003, or until a major refurbishing of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oceanographic research vessel Fairweather is completed. Alaska Ship and Drydock is bidding on the overhaul of the Fairweather, a job expected to cost $10 million or more.

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