The cruise ship Infinity has headed south for repairs. The 90,000-ton ship crashed into a Ketchikan dock Friday afternoon, damaging itself and taking out shore-side facilities.
Robert Knox of Alaska Amphibious Tours was on a nearby walkway, watching the Infinity try to maneuver.
“At first the bow was coming straight in and we figured the bow was going to hit,” Knox said. “And the pilot of the ship was actually able to get the stern turned back so the stern hit the berth instead first. The pilot did deploy the anchor and still didn’t slow the ship down.”
Rich Melvin of Aurora Tours Birds and Bears was also a witness.
“I saw the whole dock system out here and the ramps that go down to the dock slide forward about 6 or 7 feet,” Melvin said. “It could have been more. But I was watching everybody else and making sure they were getting back.”
And they did. Harbormaster Steve Corporon said the usual contingent for an arriving cruise ship figured out what was going on.
“All of the longshoremen and ship’s agents and port security personnel that were on the floating barge and the catwalk could see things going sideways soon enough that they all made it up to the berth 3 concrete dock,” Corporon said.
The ship sustained several noticeable scrapes, as well as a puncture, all above the waterline.
The hole was welded that same day and the Celebrity Cruises vessel was cleared to leave for its final destination of Vancouver, British Columbia. Coast Guard spokesman Shawn Eggert said an investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Harbormaster Corporon said damage to Berth 3, one of the community’s four cruise-ship docks, totaled $2 million to $3 million.
Corporon said the barge that acts as a dock and at least two of its three mooring dolphins were damaged. Witness videos also showed a catwalk knocked into the water.
“For the time being, Berth 3 and the Berth 3 tender float are not usable,” Corporon said. “I don’t know for how long. If I had to guess, I would say best-case scenario, we could be up and running in a month.”
An engineer flew in to inspect the berth Saturday. More information is due out this week.
With one berth out of use, Corporon said some cruise ships will have to anchor up in Tongass Narrows and come to shore via lightering boat. Others will shift docks.
Cruise-line officials didn’t respond to inquiries about the extent of damage, the cost of repair or the incident’s impact on later sailings.
The Celebrity Cruises website lists 11 more seven-day, Inside Passage voyages this summer, with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau and Hoonah. The Infinity also sails to Hubbard Glacier, near Yakutat.
It can carry more than 3,000 passengers and crew.