Committee Envisions Vessel Haul-Out Facility at Harbor

Ariel Van Cleave

     The committee tasked with exploring the option of a vessel haul-out and repair facility at the Homer Harbor has started meeting. Homer Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins has said making the facility a reality could be a few years out.

     Hawkins has been asking harbormasters, user groups and businesses that already deal with a facility like the one that’s been proposed.  And he’s been hearing a lot of pros; like how it’s a benefit to the community, it would create a new tax base for the city and it’s also a way to use an “underused” part of the harbor. 

     When city officials first started discussing this idea, Hawkins mentioned the harbor already gets some revenue from mooring barges, but there’s more money that could be made. The harbor enterprise fund pulls in about $1,700 a month for that service.

     “It’s not huge money, but the attractive part of that is as you’re mooring the barge, the tugboats in the harbor, the crews are here. If we can build from that… those activities generate a lot of money,” he said.

     Hawkins said a haul out facility is the next logical step for the harbor.

     “Right now we’ve got three to five large landing crafts… that come into the harbor and stay through the winter. And they’re very large in the harbor. If we could create this space out there for them, where they can safely moor, they’ll be happy out there. And they’ll pay straight moorage, just like you would pay in the harbor. So that creates more space in our harbor for other vessels,” Hawkins said.

     City Manager Walt Wrede pointed out that there’s already a market for that type of facility because it wouldn’t just be storage; repairs could be done as well.

     “Here in Homer… it’s almost like… if we build it, they will come. They’re knocking on our door for that kind of service,” Wrede said.

     But, as with most things, Hawkins said there are cons; like trying to find a funding source to actually build a facility and then figuring out a way to maintain said facility without letting the enterprise fund go into the red. And that’s something Hawkins is focusing on. In the committee’s documents he wrote that a facility like this will serve only a small population and other vessel owners who use privately-owned operations could take issue with additional costs getting passed down to them. 

     So as he sees it right now, there are two options moving forward. One would be an enterprise-owned and operated shipyard and haul out. But the main problem here is he currently lacks the staff to make that option successful. And that’s the whole point, to make money and provide a service. Though he said training and creating new jobs could be possible.

     The other option would be a privately-owned and operated facility. In this scenario Hawkins said a private company would be in charge of training, general maintenance and operation costs. He pointed out this would also be a low-risk option to the enterprise fund.