Vigor Alaska expects to lay off 50 to 80 workers at its Ketchikan, Alaska, shipyard during the fourth quarter as the company winds down from building a pair of new ferries for the Alaska Marine Highway System.

The first of two Alaska-class ferries, the 280’x70’ Tazlina was launched in May and christened Aug. 11, the first state ferry built in Alaska. The 300-passenger, 53-vehicle vessel will be followed in coming months by the Hubbard, scheduled for completion in March 2019. The Tazlina is slated to enter service in May 2019.

The Tazlina construction supported 100 full-time jobs, but with the ferries program wrapping up and less work coming in, the subsidiary of Vigor Industrial, Portland, Ore., decided to lay off some of its core workforce.

The first lady of Alaska, Donna Walker, christened the MV Tazlina on Aug. 11. Photo by Joshua Roper

The first lady of Alaska, Donna Walker, christened the MV Tazlina on Aug. 11. Photo by Joshua Roper

“Those from other Vigor locations will go back,” as about 100 contract workers also end their time at Ketchikan, said Adam Beck, Vigor executive vice president. The facility employs just under 300.

“We have a fairly robust repair activity up there” which can pick up more business in the fall months, said Beck. If that happens, there could be a chance for more jobs, “but we have to plan for what we know."

The company is looking to help those workers get the first crack at opportunities at other locations and on other projects.

One of those is Department of Defense work far off the water, at the Fort Greely Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) site south of Fairbanks, Alaska. The anti-ballistic missile interceptor-launching base has been expanding in response to the threat of North Korea’s missiles, and Vigor has a contract for fabrication and installation work next year. Workforce requirements are still being developed, but indications are that 30 to 50 jobs could be ramping up, said Beck.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.