Alaska Ship & Drydock, operator of Ketchikan Shipyard, is ready to make the most of new ties to Puget Sound and Portland, Ore.
Purchased in 2012 by Vigor Industrial of Seattle, the shipbuilding and repair company has set sail in a new era of growth opportunities in Alaska.
Ketchikan Shipyard, which is jointly owned by the City of Ketchikan, the Gateway Borough of Ketchikan and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, is operated by Alaska Ship & Drydock under long-term private/public partnership agreements.
The shipyard, located in Alaska’s southernmost port, employs 140-160 workers and boasts 10,000-ton and 2,500-ton drydocks, 1,400 feet of deep-water pier space, land-level berths, a 61,774-square-foot covered fabrication area, a 70,000-square-foot assembly hall, three mobile 25- to 150-ton cranes and extensive shops on a 16.5-acre waterfront parcel.
“Thanks to a robust public-private partnership with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, Ketchikan Shipyard has arguably the most modern shipbuilding and repair facilities on the West Coast,” said Alaska Ship & Drydock President Adam Beck. “The State of Alaska and AIDEA truly understand the importance of maritime infrastructure both to the competitiveness of the shipbuilding industry and regional economic development.
“Since 2000, investments at the yard have introduced advanced shipbuilding capacity in Alaska. These improvements include a new ship assembly and production hall with a modern module fabrication center to be commissioned later this year. The final phase of shipyard development will increase the ship repair capacity of the yard and move that activity indoors with a new ship repair hall,” Beck said.
Vigorous parent companyVigor owns seven shipyards in the Pacific Northwest that together employ about 2,200 people and encompass 112 acres, 10 dry-docks and 17,000 feet of pier space, including its 60-acre Swan Island yard in Portland and its 27-acre Harbor Island site in Seattle, along with other facilities in Tacoma, Everett, Bremerton and Port Angeles, Wash.
In recent years, Vigor and its US Fab shipbuilding unit have emerged as an industrial powerhouse in the Pacific Northwest, serving increasingly diverse markets. In addition to vessel repair and maintenance projects for commercial and government customers, the company builds barges and large ferries and has tapped into emerging markets such as renewable energy with the fabrication of structures such as ocean wave platforms.
Vigor’s core business comes from the Military Sealift Command, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, the commercial fishing industry and the Alaska Marine Highway and the Washington State Ferry systems.
As a leading provider of marine services for oil and gas companies in Portland and Puget Sound, Vigor is well-positioned to compete for new business in Alaska.
Growing ASD’s marine industrial capacity and its regional presence are key parts of Vigor’s competitive strategy. The company offers a long track record of serving Arctic vessels, along with its Ketchikan facilities, an experienced local work force and longstanding relationships in Alaska.
But it is Vigor’s size, strength and market reach that will allow the Ketchikan yard to weather the ups and downs of the marine market and compete in a way that it never could alone, said Beck, who also is director of regional operations for Vigor.
Land of opportunity“Specifically, three major growth opportunities spurred Vigor to invest in Alaska: Offshore oil and gas, the northern commercial fishing fleet and the Alaska Marine Highway system,” Beck said. “The fishing fleets are recapitalizing, and whether that means modernizing and expanding existing boats or building new ones, ASD and Vigor are well-positioned to service fishing companies operating in our northern waters. We’re already seeing the first uptick in this type of business in the form of the longliner currently being built in Ketchikan and the refit projects taking place at Vigor’s Puget Sound operations.”
The company’s first shipbuilding project in its new assembly and production hall in the Ketchikan yard is Alaska Longline Co.’s $20 million-plus “Arctic Prowler,” a 136-foot longliner built to fish for cod, sablefish and turbot in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Due for completion this summer, it is the first large fishing vessel built in Alaska to fish Alaska waters.
The shipyard holds a fleet maintenance contract for the Alaska Marine Highway System as well as maintenance contracts for vessels operated by the Inter-Island Ferry Authority and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.
ASD also has a professional services agreement to provide the Marine Highway System with pre-construction services during the design phase of two new Alaska Class Ferry day boats.
The operator is also working to attract new business from Prince Rupert, B.C some 100 miles farther south where the port is expanding its tug and barge fleet.
The most exciting opportunities awaiting ASD could be in the oil and gas sector.
With potentially more reserves than the Gulf of Mexico, Arctic offshore oil and gas prospects have the potential to excite explorers for many years to come.
Vigor has its eye squarely on a resurgence of energy-related activity in Alaska as vital to the entire Pacific Northwest’s economy.
“Puget Sound is part of the Alaska economy,” Vigor President and CEO Frank Foti has told reporters. “For every dollar spent on alternative energy, about $1,000 is spent on oil and gas,” he observed.
Vigor envisions new-build and repair opportunities resulting from increased offshore oil and gas exploration activity in Alaska. As operators such as Shell and ConocoPhillips pursue oil prospects in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas and others explore Cook Inlet and near-shore fields in the Arctic, a need for drill ships and numerous types of support vessels will arise. Such craft will include ice management vessels, anchor handlers, supply ships, shallow water landing craft, oil spill response vessels, oil tankers and oil containment barges with tugs.
The industry is expected to generate numerous right-sized projects for ASD. For example, Kenai Drilling LLC, for example, hired the company to perform maintenance and repairs on the jack-up drill rig Endeavour last fall and winter. ASD sent an “away team” of electricians and welders to Homer to prepare the rig for drilling in Cook Inlet.
AIDEA has a sizable investment in the rig, which was moved this spring to the Cosmopolitan Unit to drill an 8,000-foot well.
Alaska’s resource-based economy could provide other growth opportunities such as those anticipated with development mine projects such as the proposed Bokan rare earth elements and Niblack gold mine projects in Southeast Alaska.
ASD is perfectly positioned to provide services for the extensive transportation network that mining could require, according to Beck.
“In addition to marine manufacturing, ASD/Vigor has developed heavy manufacturing capacity to provide complex assemblies and fabrications to all of Alaska’s resource development sectors,” he said.
Today, ASD represents about 6 percent of Vigor’s total annual revenue, but the company hopes to grow significantly by taking advantage of emerging opportunities in Alaska.
“At the same time being backed by a $500 million company will assure ASD remains one of Alaska’s premier manufacturers,” Beck added.