Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Alaska's Fishing Ports Spending Millions to Upgrade


Aerial view of the Port of Kodiak. Photo by Margaret Bauman.

From Unalaska's Dutch Harbor in the bering sea, to the bustling commercial fishing hubs of Southeast Alaska, millions of dollars in port upgrades are underway and in the planning stages, aided by federal, state, municipal and private funding.

At the Port of Dutch Harbor, design is nearing 65 percent completion for replacement and expansion of the older section of the dock at the Unalaska Marine Center, inclusive of additional gantry crane rail, and the goal is to begin construction in the spring of 2017, says Port Director Peggy McLaughlin.

The project, which will most likely be funded through a revenue bond, will ease vessel congestion and allow for multiple cargo operations at one time, she said.

Two container ships a week are calling at Unalaska Marine Center, as well as upwards of 10 to 15 container barges a week, depending on the time of year.

There is also an ongoing request and need for the dock to enhance the ability of fuel transfers, for fuel tanker and barge services. Much of that fuel is transferred then to barges heading to customers north of Dutch Harbor, but the marine center allows for delivery of bulk shipments during the ice-free season.

With the commercial total allowable catch of pollock up this year, the port is also busy with vessels in and out of the port, McLaughlin said.

At Unalaska's Robert Storrs Small Boat Harbor, replacement construction of the 35-year-old C float was recently completed.

That $4.3 million project included putting in year-round water and electric service.

A state Department of Transportation grant provided $1.57 million, with the rest paid for by the city of Unalaska.

The C float, for vessels 60 feet and under serves state water fisheries and can accommodate from 10 to 15 vessels. While the previous structure had slips, this new linear float does not, and reduces accommodations by three to four vessels, but during the construction process, the port was able to remove several derelict vessels, and overall, it is more efficient for serving the fleet, McLaughlin said.

A third project under way at Dutch Harbor involves a light cargo dock facility on the spill, with two cells with a cap in the middle. The project plan is to fill in the gap, adding 94 feet of tie up space and additional cargo surface.

That project is moving toward 90 percent design completion, and will hopefully go out to bid by late summer for fall construction, she said. The estimated cost, $3.3 million includes funds not yet approved by the Unalaska City Council.

At the Port of Kodiak work has been completed on the replacement of the deep draft container terminal at Pier 3, a $35 million project paid for with state grant funds and approximately $2 million in local funds.

A $3.5 million electrical infrastructure upgrade was partially funded by Kodiak Electric Association.

The port's new $10 million crane, which can reach out further over the water, operates on electric power, an upgrade from the old diesel crane. The city of Kodiak is effectively operating now on 100 percent renewable energy, using hydro and wind power.

Samson Tug and Barge, which has facilities at Kodiak, includes among its more unusual cargo hauls delivery of the first wind generator to Kodiak, said David Watkins, a sales representative for Samson. Samson has brought a total of three wind generators to the island. The dock is much wider and the crane has heavier capacity, so more containers can be staged at that dock, which was designed for bigger, deeper, wider container ships coming to Alaska, said Port Director Lon White.

Kodiak is centrally located in the Gulf of Alaska and a hub for the shipping industry.

Currently most product coming into Kodiak is for Kodiak, but the bigger picture is that eventually, there is hope for more international shipping, much like Dutch Harbor, White said.

The biggest commodity leaving Kodiak at present is seafood, going overseas via transshipment out of Dutch Harbor.

The Port of Kodiak is also in the process of replacing its Pier 1 ferry terminal, a $15 million project that officially began with the demolition of the existing pier last September. The new ferry terminal, part of the Alaska Marine Highway System, funded by federal and state department of transportation funds, is scheduled for completion in July, when it will be turned over to the city of Kodiak.

The benefit to the state is that they will have a new ferry terminal for the Alaska Marine Highway System vessel Tustumena, White said. As a multi-use facility, the new terminal will also be used for moorage of fishing vessels and for potential cargo transfer from fishing vessels and transfer of petroleum products.

For the long term, Pier 3 will assure a dependable shipping connection to Alaska, as well as connect Kodiak with the Alaska Marine Highway System.

"Pier 3 is essential to our economy, which is driven by commercial fishing," White said. Matson Lines also employs numerous people as longshoremen and teamsters, to handle cargo that Kodiak area seafood processors and businesses rely on.

On the harbor side, the Port of Kodiak is working on replacement of the 50-year-old channel transit float, a 400-foot long mooring float facility in the channel, primarily used for transient vessels. Some $1.5 million in city funds are dedicated to the project and the port has applied for a state harbor matching grant for fiscal 2017.

The municipal harbor matching grant program was designed to assist municipalities in replacing harbor infrastructure originally owned by the state, but turned over to municipalities in the late 1990s.

"The state set up this program, and it has been very beneficial to communities," White said. With a state harbor matching grant in place, the port would look at doing that project in fiscal 2017, he said.

Also on the drawing board for the Port of Kodiak is a St. Herman Harbor replacement project, to upgrade the 34-year-old state built harbor that has outlived its original design and needs to be replaced. The cost estimate on that is $25 million to $28 million, he said.

In Southeast Alaska, more projects and upgrades have also improved facilities at the Ports of Sitka and Ketchikan.

Sitka Harbormaster Stan Eliason said Sitka, which operates five boat harbors, is just wrapping up a $5.4 million transient float replacement project, a breakwater for the Eliason and Thomsen harbors, funded through a state municipal matching grant.

The new transient float, 980 feet in length, has 30-amp and 50-amp service and potable water. Northern Construction Services, an Oregon firm that has done business in Alaska for the last decade, began the project in December.

Now the Port of Sitka will try for another state matching grant to rebuild phase one of the timber docks at the port's Crescent Harbor, hoping to get $5 million in funds.

Eliason said he's looking forward to a successful, safe season, and hoping for the best for the commercial fishing fleet.

Matson Lines' $10 million gantry crane at leased facilities at the Port of Kodiak has been in place since August 2015. Photo by Margaret Bauman

"This year's sac roe herring fishery was competitive," he said. "It was nice to see a lot of boats in town." Last year's sac roe fishery was a co-op harvest, but when state officials announced a target harvest of double the 2015 quota, more vessels came to fish, he said.

The Port of Ketchikan also is engaged in several projects slated to be done in May, said Angela Pool, administrative assistant.

At the port's Thomas Basin, replacement ramps will include handicap ramps, as well as an electrical upgrade, a $5 million project funded by a state matching grant.

In addition, the Port of Ketchikan's Hole In The Wall Marina is being upgraded to accommodate more small boats and small hand trollers.

Last year the port upgraded Float 9, one of its larger floats at Bar Harbor, which is used mostly by packers and seiners in vessels 58 feet and larger.

The city of Ketchikan operates a total of five public boat harbors, and has four Panamax sized cruise ship berths.


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