Vigor Industrial and the state are working through a problem with construction of the Alaska Class Ferry Hubbard. The Hubbard is the second of a two-ship deal between the state and Vigor to build new ferries at the Ketchikan shipyard.
But, the contractor now wants to move some of the Hubbard construction work south. The state would rather have all the work remain in Alaska.
Vigor runs shipyards throughout the Pacific Northwest, and the terms of its contract with the state do allow the company to complete some of the Alaska Class ferry work elsewhere.
But, the State of Alaska opted to pay for two new ferries without federal funding, because state officials wanted those ferries built in Alaska. Completely.
State Transportation Commissioner Marc Luiken said his office and other state officials have reached out to Vigor to see how they can keep the work in Ketchikan.
“Actually, the governor has spoken with their president and vice president and let them know that he really would like to see 100-percent of the work stay in the state,” he said. “But ultimately, this is going to be Vigor’s decision and the contract allows them to do that.”
In 2014, then-Gov. Sean Parnell signed a $101-million contract with Vigor Alaska to build those two ships in Ketchikan. Luiken said the contract allows Vigor to shift about 13 percent of the overall work to its shipyards in the Lower 48.
The contract also calls for a delivery deadline of Oct. 18th of this year. Luiken said if Vigor does move some of the work south, the state plans to hold Vigor to that deadline.
Doug Ward is a spokesman for Vigor’s Ketchikan operations. He said Vigor won’t meet the deadline, with or without sending some of the work to its Vancouver, Wash., shipyard.
“We’re not gonna – we’re going to be late,” he said. “And that’s where this started.”
Ward said the decision to shift less than 5 percent of the work south was a way to at least get a little closer to that deadline. He didn’t want to say how late Vigor would be delivering the Hubbard without sending that work south.
Ward said they’re still figuring out a timeline for delivery with that shift, and would provide that to the state soon.
He said Vigor and the Ketchikan shipyard share the governor’s desire to build all of the ferry in Alaska. The problem is a combination of not enough space, and a young workforce that’s learning quickly, but still learning.
“Our average age is 37 years old,” he said. “That’s pretty low for a manufacturing workforce.”
Ward said the shipyard continues to recruit, but Vigor just isn’t going to be able to build the entire Hubbard at the Ketchikan yard in time.
Commissioner Luiken said the state is open to negotiating that deadline.
“As a matter of fact, the governor said that he’d be willing to have that conversation about moving that date out, if they were to keep the work up here,” he said.
If the state does, indeed, hold Vigor to the Oct. 18 deadline for delivery, and that deadline is missed, Ward said the contract calls for financial penalties. But that’s open to negotiations.
The Tazlina was the first ferry built through that two-ship contract, and Luiken said it’s important to note that it was built 100-percent in Ketchikan.
“And there are quite a few new jobs that Vigor has brought into town with that shipyard,” he said. “So, I think it has had an impact on Alaska’s economy.”
Ward said the Tazlina took longer than expected for the reasons he mentioned before. But it is pretty much done and should be starting initial sea trials soon.
Both ferries are 280 feet long with a passenger capacity of 300. They will be able to carry up to 53 standard vehicles.