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By SAM ALLEN
Daily News Staff Writer
Ketchikan Mayor Bob Sivertsen and City Manager Karl Amylon went on a free cruise courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line this past weekend.
The cruise line invited city officials from several port towns along the West Coast to join them aboard the inaugural U.S. voyage of the Norwegian Joy.
The ship traveled from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Los Angeles.
Amylon said this was a valuable trip. It allowed the city to continue dialogue with people and companies it spoke with last month at the Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Miami, concerning the direction of the industry and how Ketchikan should move forward with port expansion, according to Amylon.
"We met with several people from Norwegian," he said. "They were very productive conferences and meetings."
The city is currently discussing port expansion strategy and formulating the next moves to take in working with the industry to expand Berth 1 and possibly Berth 2 to accommodate the larger new panamax ships.
The Joy will visit Ketchikan for the first time on Thursday. It's nearly 1,100 feet long, 136 feet wide and can carry about 3,800 vacationers.
Amylon said when they got off at the Port of Los Angeles, "it was very interesting to see that they have similar problems in trying to disembark people."
Earlier this year, the Ketchikan City Council looked at moveable enclosed gangways to efficiently load and unload passengers, which was suggested by the port infrastructure firm Bermello, Ajamil & Partners. But they have since rejected the idea due to the concern that it would "take up considerable space on berths 1 and 2," said Amylon.
Concerning berth improvements and expansion, city staff in the next few council meetings will bring "forward a series of reports in regards as to how they want to proceed relative to putting out some sort of solicitation relative to industry participation," said Amylon.
As far as attendance of the inaugural voyage, Juneau officials received an offer from the same cruise line for a free cruise for their mayor and city manager. The Juneau Borough Assembly voted to turn down the invitation and rejected an amendment to have the city pay for the cruise.
Earlier this year, the Ketchikan City Council approved $100,000 to go toward assisting Juneau in their legal battle with Cruise Lines International Association concerning the appropriate use of commercial passenger fees. CLIA represents more than 50 cruise lines around the world, including Norwegian Cruise Lines.
Amylon brought up the invitation from the cruise line in a February executive session with the council, to see whether members had any concern. He told them he had previously discussed this issue with the city attorney, and he reviewed the "issues relative to the code and did not see a conflict." The council thought it would be a good networking opportunity and also had no objection to Sivertsen's attendance, as well.
The city paid for travel to Vancouver and back from Los Angeles, but the cruise did not cost the city any money, according to Amylon.
Amylon said that this isn't the first time the city has attended an inaugural cruise, and representatives from other Alaskan communities were present, as well.