Executives with the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line confirmed aspirations for Juneau’s subport property on Wednesday. The Miami-based company wants to build another cruise ship berth.
It would be Juneau’s fifth downtown cruise ship berth.
Howard Sherman is an executive vice president with the company. He said Norwegian doesn’t plan to increase its fleet’s visits to Juneau. But a new berth would create openings for other ships at the city-owned berths Norwegian currently uses.
“This property in Juneau is an opportunity for us over the long term to engage with the community here and secure the future of our vessels, you know, for the next 30 years,” Sherman said.
He said Norwegian’s current access to Juneau may be insecure because cruise ship berth access in Alaska is governed by an unwritten rule.
“It’s based upon historical rights,” he said. “The idea is that if you came here last year, you have the opportunity to come here next year, in that exact same slot. But that is a — it’s sort of a gentleman’s agreement, in effect. And so it’s not a contractual right.”
Which, in big business, is unusual. Sherman said Norwegian has been coming to Juneau since 1994, paying to use other berths.
Sherman said Norwegian has long-term contracts at other ports around the world, and is working on securing more around Alaska.
In Juneau, Sherman said Norwegian is interested in a public-private partnership to build a new berth. The timeline and plans — or rather, plans for a planning process — are fuzzy. He said the company wants to solicit input and build community support.
“You know, once we figure that out, and then everyone’s happily singing Kumbaya together, then, you know, building is actually just a matter of a couple of years.”
The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority owns the downtown waterfront property and put it up for sale in sealed-bid auction this year. Last month, the authority revealed that Norwegian had the high bid for $20 million, about six times the 2.9-acre lot’s previously appraised value.
The property hasn’t changed hands yet. Sherman said the closing process can take up to a year. And he wants Tracy’s King Crab Shack to stay put while the plan and property are developed.
Sherman spoke at a media availability at Juneau’s City Hall.