Ketchikan has a rare visitor this weekend.
The USS Zumwalt, part of the Navy’s newest class of warships, arrived in Ketchikan Saturday morning, and it will be open to public tours 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
“The point of this stop in port is to engage with the community, and let them see where their tax dollars are going and what the Navy is out there doing” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Class Brandon Raile, in an interview with the Juneau Empire.
Raile said the last time a Navy ship made a stop at Ketchikan was in 2005 when the USS Ogden was in port, and Juneau was visited by the USS O’Kane in May 2017.
Steve Corporon, director of port and harbors for the City of Ketchikan, said some bigger fenders were needed to make sure the ship would fit at the dock without damaging either the vessel or the dock.
He said the ship’s presence would be a departure from the pre-cruise ship season status quo.
“This time of year everything is exciting, I guess,” Corporon said.
Raile said that nearly 15-year gap between visits to Ketchikan likely played a role in why Ketchikan was chosen for a visit. Plus, there’s a strategic reason to send the high-tech ship to Southeast Alaska.
“From Alaska, for air times you can get to pretty much anywhere in the northern hemisphere in under nine hours,” Raile said. “ Another reason is, as we’re all aware, is the changing environment up here.”
He said receding ice in the Arctic is creating water ways that previously didn’t exist and that means “everybody is more interested in the area for trade and other purposes.”
“It’s important that the Navy does more and more exercise up in this part of the world,” Raile said. “We have the opportunity of a ship that needs something to do and something that needs to be done. It works out pretty well.”
The trip from San Diego, where the ship is based, to Ketchikan serves as a chance for servicemen to familiarize themselves with operating the 610-footlong ship also known as DDG 1000.
“The purpose of this whole underway for them is training and testing out the new equipment,” Raile said. “This is a very new ship.”
Construction on the Zumwalt started in 2009, and according to the Navy, it is the largest advanced surface combatant in the world.
The ship is named for Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., a World War II, Vietnam and Korea veteran, who served as the 19th Chief of Naval Operations.
The USS Zumwalt was launched in October 2013, according to the Navy.
It recently made a similar trip to British Columbia and more travel will be in its future after the stop in Ketchikan.
“I can’t talk about where it is going after that, but back underway,” Raile said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.