The Ketchikan City Council, in its regular meeting Thursday, will discuss several issues concerning the possible resumption of the cruise ship visits in 2021 (season) and consider approval of a motion to accept a 60% design of Berth 3 new mooring dolphin and bollards.

First scheduled under “general government” in the agenda, placed by Council Member Mark Flora, is a presentation by Bermello Ajamil & Partners titled “Port of Call Options for the Resumption of Cruise.” That company completed a Port and Harbors Facility Development plan for the City of Ketchikan in 2006.

At the June 18 Council meeting, Ketchikan City Manager Karl Amylon was given direction to join the City of Skagway in hiring the company again to create a base set of community protocols to guide Southeast Alaska’s communities in setting strategies that  would address the safe resumption of cruise ship visits to ports during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The goal, Amylon said in the June meeting, was to have protocols in place to present to the cruise line industry far in advance of the 2021 cruise season.

Skagway and Ketchikan were to split the $10,000 cost of hiring Bermello Ajamil & Partners.

Next on Thursday's agenda regarding cruise tourism is a discussion item brought forward by Council Member Dave Kiffer concerning the creation of a standing tourism committee that would make recommendations to the council regarding cruise tourism in Ketchikan.

In the council’s Oct. 15 meeting, Flora had shared that there was discussion in a recent Port & Harbors Advisory Board meeting, of which he's a member, regarding plans the cruise industry was making to safely visit Southeast Alaska ports. One of the more concerning plans was to visit ports utilizing a safe “bubble” in ports where tourists would not be allowed to shop or tour outside of a pre-approved circle of safety as a pandemic mitigation protocol. That plan would make it impossible for many local business to participate in the cruise season.

Flora said one of the ideas that came out of that meeting was to create a tourism committee locally that would be made up of a broad group of representatives from the Ketchikan community, including from the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center, the tourism industry, the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau, City of Ketchikan staff and from the non-tourism sector.

During council member comments in that meeting, Kiffer said that he agreed with Flora that the committee was a good idea, as was the idea to invite members from a broad spectrum of the community.

A third cruise ship-related item of discussion on Thursday’s agenda was brought forward by Council Member Abby Bradberry. That discussion will center on future port fees, as well as COVID-19 response measures.

During the council’s meeting on Nov. 5, Bradberry had asked that the discussion be placed on the next meeting’s agenda concerning passenger fees for 2021 and into the future, as well as to discuss COVID-19 mitigation measures, Personal Protection Equipment, fencing and extra cleaning potentially needed.

The history of the agenda item to approve the 60% design for berth 3 new mooring dolphin and bollards is described in a memo by Interim Port & Harbors Director Mark Hilson, and is attached to the agenda.

Hilson noted that the council, in March, approved a contract with PND Engineers of Seattle, to begin the initial schematic design work and permit submissions for the Berth 3 project. In May, the the council approved an amendment that allotted $110,000 to pay PND to take the design to 100% completion.

The projected cost, as stated by Amylon in another memo would be about $5 million, with a target completion date of April 2023. That cost likely would necessitate a bond proposition in 2021.

Amylon also noted that Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has engaged the Ward Cove Dock Group about berthing its larger-class vessels at the company’s new facility north of town until the Berth 3 improvements are made.

Hilson described the problems inherent in using Berth 3 as it is constructed now to berth vessels larger than 1,100 feet long.

“Berth III was not designed for the forces involved,” Hilson wrote, “and consequently the number of lines needed to moor such a large ship.”

He explained that the optimum configuration for mooring lines on the larger ships is a minimum of eight bow lines, eight stern lines and two spring lines.

“Currently, we can accommodate six lines from the bow, five lines from the stern and two spring lines,” Hilson wrote, adding that “the current dolphins are behind the nose of the vessel, which is not an optimum configuration and can result in undesirable movement depending on wind direction, and increased forces acting on the dolphin.”

With the dolphin and bollards project completed, he added that the wind forces that could be safely tolerated by the large ships would increase by 200%. It has been confirmed, Hilson wrote, that cruise lines consider berth 3 to be “undersized” for the larger ships, leading companies to potentially choose to moor at the Ward Cove facility rather than in the city.

Additionally, Hilson wrote, the completion of the Berth 3 project would allow the city to delay the expansion of berth 1.

Another benefit of completing the berth 3 dolphin and bollards project would be that it will provide expanded operational flexibility for tying vessels at Berth 2 or  Berth 3.

Other items on the council’s Thursday agenda include:

● Discussion of possible City Council member representation or participation in upcoming negotiations with union collective bargaining meetings.

● Consideration of a motion to approve an amendment to the agreement between the City of Ketchikan and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough to simultaneously increase areawide solid waste fees from $18 per month to $20.50 per month.  

● A notification of the first 2021 general government and Ketchikan Public Utilities operating and capital budgets meeting that has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday. That meeting will be held virtually due to the “high” risk level set by the Ketchikan EOC, according to the Ketchikan City Clerk’s office.

● Review of two planned donations from the Royal Caribbean Group to local holiday season programs. The Holiday Tree Lighting celebration is set to receive $2,000, and $3,000 is planned to be given to the Shop with a Cop program organized by the City of Ketchikan Police Department.

There also is a special meeting scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Thursday, one hour before the regular meeting, at which the council plans to hold executive sessions to discuss strategies for negotiations between the City and the IBEW Local 1547 as well as to review and discuss the KPU Telecommunications Division’s business plan for new broadband and internet offerings.

The regular Ketchikan City Council meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Both meetings will be conducted via WebEx videoconference due to the recent classification by the Emergency Operations Center of the of COVID-19 community transmission risk as “high.”

The meeting can be viewed live via the KPU cable television service, on the City of

Ketchikan’s Facebook page or YouTube channel as well as on the City of Ketchikan website at http://www.ktn-ak.us/current-agendas-and-minutes.

Individuals who would like to provide public comment telephonically during the meeting should contact the Ketchikan city clerk’s office by phone at 228-5658 by 4 p.m. Thursday. There is a three-minute limit on telephonic comments.

Individuals interested in providing written comments can do so via email, sent to clerk@city.ketchikan.ak.us by 4 p.m. Thursday. Written comments will not be read at the meeting but will be “put on the table” for the City Council members.