Aleutian Ports Vie for Oil Business

Tuesday, June 26 2012

Unalaska isn’t the only Aleutian port that could see development as a result of offshore and gas drilling. A recent agreement between Offshore Systems Inc and the Aleut Corporation could result in the conversion of Adak’s former military facilities to an oil and gas support hub. But it’s not yet clear whether that will mean less business for Unalaska.

City manager Chris Hladick was expecting proposals for development of other ports in the Aleutians or along the west coast of Alaska.

“At this point in the planning stages of development, of exploration and actual development of the oil, anything is open for these folks to look at," he says. "So, in some respects, it’s a competition.”

As a major commercial fishing port, Hladick says Unalaska already has the upper hand.

“We not only have the docks, we have the industry here set up, ready to go," he says. "Yeah, it might need some expansion, but we understand what it takes to get a ship in and get it out.”

Unalaska is already the staging site for Shell Oil’s support vessels, as they head up north this summer to do exploratory drilling the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. But the near-term commitment might not mean much in the long run.

“They’ve made no commitments here, other than that they’ve built that place for the Kulluk down at OSI. So, they have some ground there, but it’s all up in the air what could happen," Hladick says.

Adak is roughly the same distance from the Arctic as Unalaska and it has a large runway and an abundance of vacant housing. But Adak city manager Layton Lockett doesn’t think the cities are competing in a zero-sum game.

“You know we hope that we can be complementary and serve in some capacity that Unalaska may not be able to. We certainly want to be able to help so that we all succeed and grow together," Lockett says.

Unalaska city manager Chris Hladick says that if the oil companies find the expected volume of oil and gas reserves in the Arctic, “there’s enough work to go around for a lot of people.”

Shell Oil is expected to head north for exploratory drilling sometime in the next few weeks. Statoil and Conoco Phillips have plans to explore in the Chukchi next summer.

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