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early in the season so people can plan their travel activities in advance. For example, the summer schedule—which starts in May—normally gets completed around the beginning of October of the previous year. The ferry system also provides quick access to information about changes to the schedule. If there’s a mechanical problem, a breakdown with one of the docks or other complications, travelers have several ways to receive updates. They can visit the AMHS website, contact a reservation center, call the ADOT’s 511 phone system, or sign up for free email notifications. Neussl says the ferry provides reasonably-priced transportation over a vast area, making it a dependable option for travelers. “The ferry system has been pretty stable, and it hasn’t gone up in the past several years,” he said. “We do not have a fuel surcharge that many other operators have implemented to offset the higher fuel costs.”

Juneau Ports and Harbors

With no roads leading into Juneau, the local port is fundamental to the city’s infrastructure. “We need the port to be open year round to bring goods into Juneau,” said Port Director Carl Uchytil. “We don’t have a rail system; all we have are tugs, barges and the airport to bring goods in.” The Port of Juneau serves a more diverse user group than many other ports, according to Uchytil. It operates four major harbors—Aurora, Harris, Douglas and Statter—with 14 slips to serve recreational boaters and commercial fishermen. The port also has two cruise

Photo courtesy of DOT&PF/AMHS

Captain Michael Neussl, Deputy Commissioner for Marine Operations, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Alaska Marine Highway System

ship docks (four cruise ship berths) that can accommodate up to five large vessels and a considerable number of passengers. “In 2011, we had 875,000 cruise ship passengers that came into Juneau,” Uchytil said. “That’s down from 1.03 million in 2008.” Uchytil attributes the decrease, in part, to the global recession. This year, he expects the number of cruise ship passengers to be back up to 930,000.

Improvement Projects

Juneau is working on a number of projects to improve its system of aging harbors and docks, most of which were built in the ‘50s and ‘70s. As a major undertaking, the city is building two new floating berths to accommodate larger ships. “One complaint we’ve heard is that

we have to block off a portion of the wharf now with temporary fencing when we have ships in town,” Uchytil said. “By moving the cruise ships off the wharf with these floating docks, we’ll be able to return some of the wharf to pedestrians. It will greatly improve accessibility to downtown.” The port is also revamping the terminal staging area where cruise ships come ashore. When ships dock and unload now, it presents a challenge because of the large number of people disembarking at one time. Revamping the terminal staging area will improve the efficiency and safety for unloading passengers. Juneau is also renovating some of its harbors. Permits are being sought to complete improvements on Douglas Harbor. And Statter Harbor has a three-phase improvement project under way. The antiquated harbor, which is used by about 25 percent of Juneau’s boaters, desperately needs to be updated and expanded. Uchytil explained: “This day and age, we have light aluminum or fiberglass vessels and trucks with trailer capability. It’s a different boating public, so the need for parking and launch facilities is at an alltime high.”

Commercial Real Estate

Activity in the CBJ commercial real estate market has been minimal, according to Errol Champion, president of the Southeast Alaska Board of Realtors. In the last three years, the area has had only about a dozen commercial transactions on the Alaska Multiple Listing Service. That doesn’t include private deals, so the total count for all commercial transactions was much higher.

A floatplane takes off in Gastineau Channel with a view of three cruise ships docked in downtown Juneau.

©2012 Christopher S. Miller /

18 • Alaska Business Monthly • April 2012

April - 2012 - Alaska Business Monthly  

Alaska Business Monthly’s 2012 Corporate 100 annual special section begins on page 86. Top citizens of industry are highlighted in this annu...