KETCHIKAN -- Alaska Ship and Drydock has had 23 fewer people working in the Ketchikan Shipyard since May 1 and the company says the main reason is a seasonal slowdown in routine vessel repair and maintenance work.
"It's unfortunate, but it's fairly typical for the work slowdown in the summer," said ASD President Adam Beck. "As you can imagine, all of the ferries are working, most of the commercial vessels are working, and that's not when they want to get their maintenance done."
The workforce dropped from 128 to 105 as of Wednesday. Not all were layoffs. The Ketchikan Daily News reports some workers voluntarily took time off and are working with other companies.
"They're not necessarily laid off, but ... where they can find other work, they've done that," said Doug Ward, director of shipyard development. "And I'm not suggesting that they're doing it out of the kindness of their heart, but they understand that this is a slow time, and that it's difficult to keep everybody going."
In past years, new construction and emergency repairs have made up for the usual summer slowdown at the shipyard, Ward said. There's also been a decline in government vessel work.
"This year, there just hasn't been many government contracts with performance periods in the spring, that we normally have in the spring, early summer," Ward said.
Also absent are large new-vessel projects. The company has begun building a 136-foot, longliner-freezer fishing boat but the project cannot absorb a lot of labor.
"We're looking at another new build on a fish boat that could start up, and when the ship assembly hall opens here in July and August ... it will really allow us to build for the future on a new-build program," Ward said.
A solid new-build program would risks and cycles of the ship repair business, he said.
"That's the value of new build, because new build goes on seven days a week, every day, all year long," Ward said.
The company is a subsidiary of Portland, Ore.-based Vigor Industrial, which operates several shipyards in the Pacific Northwest. Vigor has recently redirected work to Ketchikan that likely would have gone elsewhere.
"We've directed that work up here to ASD, and that will be coming in late July," Beck said.