New Life for Seward’s Marine Industrial Center
Operators on a Hitachi 1200 Excavator with a four-cubic-yard clamshell working around the clock in March to remove 115,000 cubic yards of material to provide a new channel from the north into the basin at Seward Marine Industrial Center.
Photo by Nancy Erickson | Courtesy of the City of Seward
It’s been years in the making, but the Seward Marine Industrial Center (SMIC) is getting the long-awaited breakwater so desperately needed to compete as a deep water, ice-free, marine industrial port.
Mammoth rock trucks rumble over roads that once saw little traffic, transferring rock from the City’s rock quarry to size-designated piles in preparation for placement in the new 960-foot breakwater. Hamilton Marine’s dredging crews are working 24/7 to remove 115,000 cubic yards of material that will provide a new channel into the basin from the north, according to Hamilton’s Project Assistant Andy Loertscher. Associated navigational aids and marker piles will also be added. Existing sewer and seafood outfalls from Polar Seafoods and Spring Creek Correctional Center will be relocated to accommodate the breakwater development.
Hamilton Marine Construction LLC began work on the Phase One $15 million project late last fall with a scheduled completion date of April 2017. The breakwater will extend from the existing cell wall on the southwest side of the basin and when completed will enclose roughly thirty-five acres of water, according to Seward Assistant City Manager Ron Long.
Phase Two of the SMIC expansion project will see development and dredging of the SMIC basin to increase moorage and wharfage capacity, repair the damaged North Dock, and add utility and upland infrastructure.
But the bigger story is not what the breakwater is but what its completion will mean to Seward and Alaska.
According to Long, getting the breakwater in place is pivotal to developing the industrial center and a catalyst for economic growth and job stability. The few marine-related businesses that stood sentinel for years on the uplands that promised a thriving conglomeration of marine repair facilities are now being joined by other like-minded entrepreneurs as the City’s lease parcels are gobbled up.
Of the initial eighty-five acres of land available for development, thirty-six acres remain for purchase or lease, according to Seward Harbormaster Norm Regis. Other parcels are leased or privately owned.
The City of Seward had big plans in the mid-1980s for the fifteen square mile parcel located on the Fourth of July Creek alluvial fan delta two miles across Resurrection Bay from Seward. In 1986 city voters approved a $30 million general obligation bond to purchase and construct infrastructure, of which a portion was eventually leased by Jim Pruitt and operated as Seward Ship’s Drydock. A partial cell wall was constructed as well as a 430-foot cargo dock north of the drydock.
But the project ran out of money and its anticipated potential was never developed. Without a protective breakwater, aggressive wave action entering the Bay from the Gulf of Alaska proved too rough for vessels to safely tie up to the cargo dock.
“Word gets out fast: ‘Don’t bring your boats here,’” Long says of the message filtered down to Seattle-based barge services, large workboats, and the Western Alaska Community Development Quota, or CDQ, fishing fleet the City was hoping to entice.
“That’s why the breakwater is so crucial,” Long says. “It takes the fear factor out of going there. Vessels come and the workforce will follow.”
The City of Seward’s 330-foot Travelift hauls out a Crowley tug boat for repairs and maintenance in the Seward Marine Industrial Center yard.
Photo courtesy of Seward Harbormaster’s Office
Vigor Industrial’s eleven-acre full service shipyard is the “anchor tenant” at SMIC. Formerly Seward Ship’s Drydock, Vigor assumed the helm in 2014. Located on the south side of the basin, the facility consists of an 80-foot by 350-foot synchrolift rated to lift vessels up to 5,000 long tons and 300 feet long, upland rails, a lateral transfer cradle, and a dock on the north side.
The Travelift pier north of Vigor is used exclusively by the City of Seward’s 330-ton boat haul-out crane. The machine can lift most vessels up to 100 feet long and is used to transport vessels to the environmentally friendly wash down pad and to the upland areas for maintenance, repairs, and storage. Lifts can be scheduled seven days a week.
City harbor crew recently installed two guide piles to assist vessels in and out of the Travelift slipway. The safety ladder was re-located to the inside of the Travelift. Crews are also making use of the basin’s dredged material by filling in the uplands and improving drainage issues, Regis says.
The East Dock, also known as the Inlet Salmon dock, is located on the east side of the basin and is a self-standing sheet pile bulkhead. The dock has a 132-foot face and is 107-feet wide and is capable of servicing vessels up to 100-feet in length. Polar Seafoods is the primary user of this facility.
Major improvements to the 430-foot North Dock are part of Phase Two; however, repairs completed under Phase One will keep the dock functional at the west end until such time funding is secured for the second phase, according to Long.
Improvements to Seward’s Harbor
The Seward Harbor and Alaska Railroad Dock are also receiving upgrades.
Turnagain Marine Construction was the low bidder on a contract to replace the last four aging wooden floats in the Seward Harbor. Floats A, B, C, S, and a portion of G float were replaced with new wooden floats. New ramps were installed at B and S floats and new electrical service for B and C floats, according to Regis. Installation of the new Northeast fish cleaning station is scheduled to be completed by April of this year. Guest handicap moorage will also be available.
Due to increasing freight volume, the Alaska Railroad has issued a five-year Master Plan calling for additional moorage/wharf capacity, new roads, and increased industrial space, according to Seward Port Manager Christy Terry.
First on the list is upgrading the East Dock to accommodate fishing vessels seeking to unload their catch in Seward. The improvements include a seven thousand-plus-square-foot paved area on the ocean end of the dock, new electrical power, and water service. Completion is scheduled for June 2016.
Nancy Erickson is a freelance writer living in Seward. This article was commissioned by the City of Seward. It is published in Alaska Business Monthly with permission.
On-Site Services—Seward Marine Industrial Center
- AVTEC Alaska Maritime Training Center | Department Head: Terry Federer; 907-224-6195 — Alaska Maritime Training Center (AMTC) offers US Coast Guard and International Maritime Organization STCW approved and compliant maritime training at AVTEC facilities within the SMIC area. AMTC offers both Basic and Advanced Firefighting courses for shipboard fires and Proficiency in Survival Craft/Lifeboatman courses, as well as industry and vessel specific safety training customized to meet industry needs. This includes cold water survival and custom firefighting courses. Apprenticeship: AVTEC administration is in the beginning stages of discussing the viability and development of a marine repair apprenticeship program. They are first interviewing potential employers to discuss the need and whether such a program would be sustainable.
- Alaska Logistics | Seward Operations Manager Eric Day, SMIC yard, 907-224-7128, 907-224-2004; Owner: Allyn Long — Scheduled barge service from Seattle to various ports throughout Western Alaska since 2003. Seward is the first stop for its mainline barges heading West. Its location and facilities are ideal for freight originating in Central Alaska.
- Alaska Marine Coatings LLC | Owners: Mike and Tiffany Ritz; 907-382-0586 — Marine coating for workboats. The family-owned company prides itself in hiring, training, and employing local Alaskans.
- Catalyst Marine Engineering | Owner: Joe Tougas; 1806 Alameda St.; 907-224-2500 — Vessel support facility specializing in high quality ABS/USCG marine welding, fabrication, machine shop, PPG paint dealer, and marine logistics.
- City of Seward | City Manager Jim Hunt; 907-224-3331 — Various parcels are available for sale or lease. The SMIC yard has forty-six stalls for storage and repair, seventeen of which have power, and five more are scheduled to be installed in spring 2016. A wash-down pad is available for vessels utilizing the 330-ton Travelift.
- Communications North | Owner: Pat Marrs, 204 Nash Road in SMIC, 907-224-8908 — The company focuses on the electronic needs of the maritime industry and provides services for the fishing fleet, cargo ships, oil tankers, cruise ships, and tour vessels.
- Polar Seafoods Inc. | Owner: Mike Shupe; located at SMIC dock; 907-224-8748 or 224-7066 — Fish processing facility. Fresh and frozen seafood and canned salmon.
- Raibow Fiberglass & Boat Repair LLC &
- Raibow Marine Supply LLC | Owner: Dave Phillips; located in SMIC yard and in Seward at 1712 Alameda, 907-224-3028 — Full service boat repair yard offering top quality work at a fair price. Services range from mechanical and cosmetic repair, structural fiberglass and fibercoating, shrink wrapping, and 150-boat capacity winter storage. Raibow has two yards in Seward and three yards at SMIC. The store at SMIC offers a variety of marine repair supplies. Phillips is currently working with AVTEC to develop a marine repair apprenticeship program.
- SewMar storage condos | Owners: Tom Tougas and Larry Harmon, Mile 7 Nash Road in SMIC; 907-224-4378 — Ten large storage condos for sale; units measure 48 feet by 20 feet and 48 feet by 24 feet.
- Shoreside Petroleum | Owner: Kurt and Diana Lindsey; 700 Port Ave., 224-8040 — Serving marine, construction, residential heating fuel, and marine service station. Shoreside has a small tank farm at SMIC and a fueling station on the North Dock and in the Seward Harbor.
- Spartan Rig 151 | An oil drilling rig owned by Spartan Offshore wintered over at SMIC, bringing in approximately $13,000 in moorage revenue. Plans are to return this fall if the rig isn’t operating this winter.
- Vigor Marine, SMIC full service ship yard | Located at Mile 7 Nash Road in SMIC,
- 907-224-3198 — SyncroLift: 350 feet long by 80 feet wide, 5,000 long ton capacity plus the City’s Travelift; their eleven-acre yard is ideal for all types of conversions and major repair work.
This article first appeared in the June 2016 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly.