Ketchikan’s shipyard has added about 20 jobs since February, with employees earning an average annual salary of $55,000. The shipyard’s new owner, Vigor Industrial, touts those numbers along with the company’s simple mission statement: Industrial jobs matter.
Alaska Ship and Drydock president Adam Beck also is director of regional operations for Vigor. During a Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon, he talked about Vigor in general, and the local shipyard specifically.
Beck said Vigor employs about 2,200 people at seven shipyards in the Pacific Northwest. Between those shipyards, the company owns 112 acres, 10 drydocks and 17,000 feet of pier space.
“Another thing that I’m pleased to announce is that we’re just a few weeks from signing a contract that’s going to build us a new drydock for our Portland location,” he said. “That drydock will be an 80,000-ton drydock, 900 feet long, 195 feet clear between the wingwalls. Just to put it in perspective, that’s eight times the size of the large drydock here in Ketchikan.”
In Ketchikan, Beck said the new enclosed assembly hall is done, and with the help of a $10 million state grant, the company has started construction of a steel shop. More expansion projects are ready to go whenever more funds are available.
“The nice thing about some of these projects is the Environmental Impact Studies are already done, the permits are in place, they are truly shovel-ready,” he said. “The steel shop, that appropriation was made early this summer and work is already started on it. Utilities are going in the ground now and we hope to break ground on the foundation within the next couple of weeks, so it does put people to work immediately.”
Vigor also has spent about $2 million of its own capital to improve Alaska Ship and Drydock. Beck said the value of the Ketchikan facility is clear.
“The oil and gas sector, the fishing fleet recapitalization, marine highway system, these numbers, we couldn’t even fit them on the slide. They’re staggering,” he said. “There’s literally billions and billions coming this way. Even if one of these things comes to fruition, it’s on the scale that I don’t think people are imagining.”
On the horizon is the Alaska Marine Highway ferry construction project. Alaska Ship and Drydock is working with the state on the design of the new ferry, and once that’s complete in June, the local shipyard will be able to bid on it.
That could lead to Ketchikan’s shipyard winning a 12- to16-year project, providing stability for the organization and its employees.
“We are optimistic that we are in a good position to win it,” he said. “We think that we can build the ship that the state wants without any trouble. When we do, and when we get that contract, we absolutely, 100 percent, intend to build that ship here in Ketchikan.”
Another potential project for Vigor, and indirectly for Alaska Ship and Drydock, is a multi-year, $8 billion contract to build offshore patrol cutters for the U.S. Coast Guard. If Vigor wins that bid, Beck said all the company’s shipyards will be involved in portions of the work.
The key issue now is developing a workforce. Beck said shipyard jobs are available, and local residents are ready to work, but they need training. He said Vigor would love to form a partnership with a Ketchikan organization to teach those skills