Skagway’s plans for large cruise ships at Ore Dock may be scrapped

Skagway’s Ore Dock. (Photo by Mike Swasey/KHNS)

Skagway’s hopes of berthing up to four cruise ships a day in 2023 took a full step backward this week as results from a simulation project steered at least one major cruise line company away from agreeing to use a reconfigured Ore Dock.

At its last regularly scheduled meeting, Skagway’s Assembly agreed to a walkaway deal with White Pass and Yukon Route that would allow the municipality early access to start improving the Ore Dock prior to the expiration of the 55-year waterfront lease with the railroad company next March.

The deal allows for White Pass to leave the infrastructure in place at the Ore and Broadway Docks while the municipality takes over the contaminated Ore Basin remediation project for costs of up to $15 million.

But this week the alternative mooring plan to expand the Ore Dock to allow post-Panamax size cruise ships — built too large to pass through the Panama Canal — to dock there in 2023 no longer looks viable.

At a special budget meeting on Wednesday night, Borough Manager Brad Ryan told the Assembly that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines was the first company to say they won’t use the Ore Dock Alternative Mooring Plan as it’s currently designed.

“It’s not that they can’t come in and dock it, they did it in the simulation, they just don’t like the clearance distance between the wings of those larger ships and the Broadway ship,” said Ryan.

RCL has suggested adding another 132 feet of dock length to extend the Ore Dock further south than the Alternative Mooring Plan suggests. But that means installing a deep-water dolphin that could drive the cost of the project from the original estimate of $6 million to upwards of $26 million.

“That puts piles in 155 feet of water. And we believe that’s about a $10 million dolphin out there,” said Ryan.

Without permits or sourced materials, Ryan doesn’t believe that’s something that can be achieved by next season. So that could leave the chance for Skagway to host four cruise ships a day next year dependent on the rockslide mitigation project above the Railroad Dock.

A special Assembly meeting was held Friday afternoon. Audio of that meeting can be found at Skagway.org.

KHNS - Haines

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