Alaska Ship and Drydock’s 433’×110’ (inside the wing walls) drydock in Ketchikan, Alaska, has been fully occupied this summer. At one end of the 9,600-ton capacity drydock has been the LeConte, a 235-foot Alaska Marine Highway System ferry, which was towed in for repairs after it grounded in May. The other end has been taken up by a 128’×36’ Army Reserve tug, the Henry Knox.
Gaping holes along both sides of the keel reveal the deep damage sustained by the LeConte when the car/passenger ferry ran aground north of Sitka. The repairs will cost an estimated $3.5 million and the job won’t be completed until early fall, according to Doug Ward, director of shipyard development at the Ketchikan yard. The repairs include substantial steel work on the bottom plating and structural framing. The sewage treatment system was destroyed in the accident and extensive rewiring is also required.
The tug, also known as LT-802, is in the yard for a scheduled refit that occurs every three years.
Rick Balentine, a retired Army warrant officer who served on two of the tug’s sister ships, now works for TACOM (U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command) and has been overseeing the work at the Ketchikan yard. “We go through and technically inspect every system on the boat and return the vessel to what we call a fully mission-capable condition,” he said. “Beyond testing all systems, we generally pull the shafts, drop the rudders, drop the screws out and have everything balanced. Then we sandblast it from top of mast to bottom of keel and renew the paint system. Also, all the hatches come off and get new gaskets. It’s basically a total refit.”
Cost of the refit is about $2 million, according to Balentine.
When completed, the 802 will be towed back to Tacoma, Wash., where it’s part of an Army Reserve unit. Balentine said that at some point in the future, one of the tug’s superstructure levels will be removed to lower its overall height.
Ward said that Alaska Ship and Drydock will be adding another drydock.
The new drydock is being financed by a $5 million federal grant from the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration and $2.5 million each from the state of Alaska and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. The company is also working with U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, to secure another $25 million for the construction of more buildings for vessel maintenance and repair work. — Bruce Buls