Howard Sherman, executive vice president of onboard revenue and destination services for Norwegian Cruise Lines, is in Juneau this week meeting with local officials to discuss plans for the 2.9 acre Subport parcel located on Egan Drive.
Sherman has met with city officials, Coast Guard officers, local architects and a number of other groups during his three-day visit.
Thursday, he spoke to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce’s weekly luncheon, talking up potential benefits the city could see from Norwegian’s investment.
In September, Norwegian bid $20 million for the lot across from the Juneau Arts and Culture Center and next to Gold Creek which was being auctioned off by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.
The company wants to build a cruise ship dock where it can berths its vessels when they come to Juneau. But as Sherman pointed out, a cruise ship just visiting for a day doesn’t really need anything on land.
“You really mostly need the pier,” Sherman said. “That leaves us free to use the site for whatever it is the community wants.”
What the community wants is partly one of the things Sherman said he’s here to figure out. Norwegian does have some things they’re already looking at. Connecting Juneau Seawalk was a critical part of the plan, Sherman said.
Other than that, there are a number of things Sherman’s heard from community members. An ocean science museum known as the ocean center, condominiums and even a child care facility were all possibilities, he said.
The company was focused on sustainability Sherman said, noting the company had already done away with plastic straws and was working on eliminating plastic water bottles.
Shore power was also critical to Norwegian’s plan, according to Sherman. Hooking a ship up to Juneau’s onshore hydro-power was much cleaner and cheaper, as well as a benefit to the local power company, he said.
However, drier weather conditions in recent years has made the viability of using shore power questionable. Lower than normal precipitation has affected Alaska Electric Light & Power’s ability to generate electricity, according to AEL&P Vice President Alec Mesdag, who was at the luncheon.
“Our ability to serve new cruise ships will likely include new generation resources so that we’re able to consistently sell to any new docks that might be connected,” Mesdag said.
Mesdag said AEL&P is looking at developing various resources for increased power generation.
Sherman wanted to stress that working with the community was a priority for Norwegian and that he was aware of some pushback against the industry from locals.
Mayor Beth Weldon recently established a Visitor Industry Task Force to try and address community concerns about the tourism industry. Wednesday night, neighborhood associations met to discuss the impacts of tourism on different areas of Juneau.
It was said at that meeting there was a feeling the tourism industry is too powerful and that conversations too often revolved around money and not around ancillary impacts. At one point the word “bully” was used to describe the industry.
“I realize that the imbalance between small Alaskan community and a multi-billion cruise line, that can be intimidating,” Sherman said when asked about such comments. “We need to keep coming back here and engaging with the people and listening to their concerns and addressing their concerns.”
Sherman told reporters in October Norwegian would set up a website where community members could submit comments to the company. It was too early in the planning phases for that website, Sherman said, but something should be coming online in the coming months.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or email@example.com.