In a memo written by Acting Port and Harbors Director Mark Hilson and included in the Ketchikan City Council’s June 3 meeting agenda, Hilson outlined the work that is in progress in anticipation of large cruise ships visiting town later this summer.
In a recent review of the port's approved security plan, the U.S. Coast Guard mandated an increase in port security personnel, Hilson wrote.
In a phone call on Tuesday, Hilson said that the first group of port security staff members have been hired, and worked on June 4 when the 270-foot ship American Constellation called on the port.
A second group of port security personnel is planned to be hired with an expected start date prior to July 24, Hilson wrote in his memo.
Hilson also outlined the transportation plan for guests on the Norwegian Cruise Line ships that plan to land at the Ward Cove Dock Group's new facility in Ward Cove (dock).
NCL originally planned to bring the 1,094-foot Norwegian Bliss to Ketchikan in August and September, but Hilson said via phone that the company has decided instead to bring the Norwegian Encore, which is a vessel with the same length as the Bliss, but with about 1,000 more tons (tonnage).
Passengers are planned to be transported to town or to other destinations from Ward Cove by bus or by water taxi. Bus staging will be held at Front Street Extended, near Berth 2, Hilson said. There will be port security staff at that location to monitor and support that operation.
“The limited restart of (NCL's) cruise season will allow port staff and Ward Cove staff the opportunity to observe how this works and make informed decisions about what needs to happen for 2022,” Hilson wrote in his memo.
Staff also is scheduled to meet with Allen Marine representatives to discuss water taxi operations that Allen Marine is “well positioned to provide,” he added.
Using the water taxi option would not only reduce the number of buses in the downtown area, Hilson wrote, but it also would give tourists a “beautiful and unique perspective of Ketchikan.”
Port projects in progress to mitigate the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic include the installation of touchless faucets and automatic toilet/urinal flushers at Berth 4; touchless soap dispensers for the Berth 3 restrooms; hand sanitizer stations; Berth 3 and 4 restrooms air purification equipment and touchless water bottle fill stations.
Most projects are expected to be completed by mid-July, but the bottle fill stations are having supply chain issues, so are expected to be installed by early September.
Staff also has been in talks with dock food and sales vendors, and Hilson reported in his memo that there has been interest in at least two sales vendors and a food vendor willing to open in 2021, but that it is “highly dependent on rent and ship scheduling,” Hilson wrote.
Staff has created a proposed rent schedule for the vendors, and it is anticipated that City Council direction will be sought on that issue before ships arrive.
The downtown berths are ready to welcome ships, according to Hilson.
Projects already completed include the repair and activation of water services; the installation of backflow preventers; activating and testing of the discharge line; and the reinstallation of Yokohama dock fenders that Hilson wrote have been getting “perennially hung up.”
A broken piling hoop also has been repaired at Berth 4, Hilson wrote.
Included with Hilson’s memo in the agenda was the current ship schedule for the Ketchikan and Ward Cove ports. The schedule can be viewed online at claalaska.com.
The large ship visits still are pending full approval for the resumption of cruising to Southeast Alaska ports by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.