Skagway is ready for cruise ships after a $19 million grant for rock slide mitigation

Alaska is gearing up for another banner cruise season following record-breaking numbers at ports across the state in 2023.

skagway cruise ship pier

That was the case for Skagway, which had around 1.2 million cruisers. This was despite the historic Gold Rush town experiencing capacity constraints due to the ongoing rockslide issues at the Railroad Dock.

Rockslides have disrupted docking ships over the past two seasons, with only a portion of the dock deemed safe for passenger operations. Several measures were taken last year to mitigate the danger, like placing nets and even controlled demolitions on the mountainside.

The partial use of the dock led to the inconvenience of having to shuttle passengers from one end to the other. Toward the end of the 2023 season, the Skagway cruise industry got the news it hoped for.

Grant will Allow Full Cruise Ship Capacity to Resume

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced a $19.9 million grant for rockslide mitigation. “This is huge for Skagway and huge for the cruise industry,” Mayor Andrew Cremata said last September. Cremata said about $4 million was spent last year on temporary fixes. The grant will go toward a more permanent solution.

The grant will cover about 75% of the overall cost of work required and is thanks to major lobbying efforts the municipality conducted in Washington, DC.

What the Work Entrails

A cruise ship docked in a body of water near mountains in Skagway.
(Princess Cruises)

The work requires “drilling some long holes up there, and putting some long sections of rebar in there, grout and pin it back so it’s stabilized,” said Skagway Borough Manager Brad Ryan. “Then removing rock that’s going to slide, and that’s about 30,000 yards of material.”

The ultimate goal is to enable foot traffic on the dock again without the time-consuming shuttling of passengers by bus and boat. Last year, some cruise lines were forced to cancel or shorten the duration of scheduled port calls at the Railroad Dock.

The 2024 cruise season kicks off in late April with a call by the Norwegian Jewel. The same ship concludes the season with a final call in Skagway on October 23.

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