The Ketchikan City Council meets in special session on Wednesday to again talk about development of the city-owned downtown port.
The council has been moving toward issuing a Request for Proposals to see what kind of interest there is in a private-public partnership. The city has been looking into developing the port for a few years, in anticipation of more mega cruise ships entering the Alaska market.
The estimated cost for reconfiguring the port is upwards of $150 million. That includes uplands development.
Ketchikan’s downtown dock can handle one mega ship at a time now. A private cruise dock in the Ward Cove area is under development, with the goal of taking up to two mega ships at a time.
City management and representatives from consulting firm Bermello, Ajamil and Partners have recommended that the city move forward with a long-term concession agreement. That means a private partner would finance improvements and pay the city for a contract to operate the dock. The partner would make money by charging fees to the cruise lines and vendors.
Another RFP option is a preferential-berthing agreement. Through that, a cruise line would pay a fee for guaranteed docking space at one of the berths. The city likely would have to forward-fund any dock improvements.
Some council members and members of the public have expressed concern that a private-public partnership could mean giving up control of the downtown dock. The council is not obligated to accept any proposal submitted through an RFP process.
Some members of the public also have expressed concern about the number of cruise visitors that come to Ketchikan. There have been calls to limit that number.
Ketchikan is expected to host about 1.2 million cruise visitors this season.
A separate proposal from Survey Point Holdings calls for the city to finance an estimated $20.5-million port expansion, which would allow three mega-ships to be moored at Berths 1, 2 and 3 at the same time. That cost estimate does not include uplands development.
Also Wednesday, the council is scheduled to decide the scope of the dock expansion project. Before the Ward Cove private dock was announced, the city had planned to provide four large berths. That could be scaled back, if some large ships are diverted to Ward Cove.
Wednesday’s special council meeting starts at 7 p.m. in city council chambers at City Hall. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.