On Monday afternoon, Vigor Alaska staff moved the still-under-construction vessel Tazlina completely out of the Ketchikan Shipyard assembly hall, giving the community its first full view of the Alaska-Class ferry that, with good fortune, will serve the Alaska Marine Highway System and the citizens of this great state for many years to come.
Although much work remains until completion, seeing the Tazlina’s full outline sparks a feeling of pride.
This is a ship that’s being built in Ketchikan.
Local longtimers know the immense amount of time and effort that’s gone into developing a shipyard facility capable of building and maintaining ferries and other vessels.
Decades of planning, substantial public and private investment, committed public leadership and focused private management have brought the state-owned shipyard to this point. More efforts are needed to complete the shipyard facility’s development plans, but for the moment, all those who’ve been involved over the years can see a result of their labors in the ferry taking shape before our eyes.
And, as work continues on the Tazlina, Vigor personnel are constructing components of a second Alaska-Class ferry, the Hubbard.
More than just pride, the building of these ships is bringing economic opportunities to Ketchikan. The Ketchikan Shipyard’s fabrication and maintenence capabilities continue to produce year-round employment and business opportunities here, and that’s something we’d like to see continue.
A significant component of the Ketchikan Shipyard’s work involves the Alaska Marine Highway System. The state-operated system is in a transition period as it works to revamp an aging fleet and weather financial conditions exacerbated by the state government’s woeful revenue and overall budget situations.
Earlier this week, the Southeast Conference announced the release of a draft report developed by the Elliot Bay Design Group and other entities that have been looking at ways to reorganize the ferry system with the goal of maintaining its long-term viability. The draft report contains a variety of recommendations regarding ferry operations and governance.
We agree with Dennis Watson, the chair of the project’s statewide steering committee, in viewing AMHS as being at a “critical juncture.”
“We must act now to preserve essential transportation and economic opportunities,” he said in announcing the release of the draft report, which is available on the project website at www.amhsreform.com.
A viable AMHS is crucial, not only for the many communities it serves, but for the entire state. Prudent changes that would help ensure a robust future for the ferry system are welcome.
At present, we’re pleased that Vigor Alaska is building a pair of ferries at the Ketchikan Shipyard for that future.
— Ketchikan Daily News,