Juneau's Docks and Harbors department is readying for the inbound cruise season as it makes headway on other projects around the city, said the harbormaster. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Docks and harbors rigs for cruise season

It’ll be the first full season since 2019.

As Juneau readies for its first full cruise season in years, beginning with the Norwegian Bliss on April 25, City and Borough Juneau Docks and Harbors are preparing for a busy season.

The department is staffing up its seasonal positions as it readies its piers and looks to continue work on its other harbors, said Harbormaster Matt Creswell.

“We’re just getting ready. It depends on turning the switch on for a real season in two years,” Creswell said in a phone interview. “March of 2019 was the last time we were doing it. We’ve got 29 open positions to fill. We are crazy about hiring right now.”

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The large number of positions, which include harbor officers, harbor technicians and administrative assistants, comes from a federal mandate for increased security pierside, which requires more bodies to check passenger IDs and boarding passes, Creswell said.

“That’s a direct result of increased security requirements,” Creswell said. “That’s the impetus of why we’re having to create so many more positions.”

The schedule for the 2022 cruise season is a brisk one, Creswell said, with the first vessel due on April 25 and the last on Oct. 18. Reservations for large vessels other than cruise ships are also looking good, Creswell said.

“We know we’re going to get lots of ships. We don’t know how full the ships will be. What we’re seeing is demand is high,” Creswell said. “(Yacht) reservations are tracking normal where they should be. We should see a lot of large yachts this year.”

There’s also a lot of work readying Docks and Harbors facilities to be done, Creswell said, including cleaning, pressure washing, preventative maintenance for the piers, restriping parking lots, and more as the season turns to spring. Dock and Harbors personnel also need to meet with tour operators to talk operating procedures for vehicles like the tour buses, Creswell said, making sure everyone’s on the same page.

The department isn’t neglecting its local harbors either as ongoing projects continue, Creswell said.

“We’re beginning talks of (Don D.) Statter Harbor Phase 3C, which is paving the uplands, otherwise known as the bus lot,” Creswell said. “That’s a head tax project.”

The department is also looking at replacing piers that were removed from Aurora Harbor. The project was priced out several years ago, Creswell said, but the economics since then have somewhat shifted. The

“Initial cost estimates were done in 2017,” Creswell said. “Four million dollars in 2017 isn’t four million dollars today. We don’t even know what that gets back in right now.”

The department is also looking to finish repairs for the floats wrenched by high winds in Statter Harbor by mid-spring, Creswell said. Engineers are beginning to apply for grants for projects, and the hiring of a night watchman for the harbor facilities in addition to physical security seems to have paid off, Creswell said.

“Police calls are way down in the harbors. We’re not getting nearly as many theft reports,” Creswell said. “He’s also getting a hand on the derelict vehicles.”

The department is also looking at usage rate changes, Creswell said; a proposed increase to some fees from the Docks and Harbors Board will go to the Juneau Assembly early next week.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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