Ocean Beauty officials say the fish processing plant took such a hard hit last month that it will not be in full operation this summer.
The plant, situated at the end of a 1,500 ft. pier between the North and Middle harbors, was struck on May 7 by the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry the M/V Matanuska. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.
According to Tom Sunderland, vice president of marketing for Ocean Beauty the plant will still be running its normal ice delivery service and the tender service will be the same as in past seasons.
“It’s good news for the fishermen, the service will be almost identical,” Sunderland said.
The plant employs about 160 people during the summer months for fish processing, but only the office staff and a few other employees will be working this summer.
“We will be running in 2013, we will be running at full bore,” Sunderland said.
The accident that damaged Ocean Beauty occurred at about 1 p.m. as the Matanuska was preparing to dock at the ferry terminal, and crashed into the plant.
The passengers on board said the impact was not as strong as they had anticipated, and that it didn't knock anyone off their feet.
The Ocean Beauty dock sustained heavy damage. The dock pilings were broken and a hydraulic crane was crushed, as well as the second floor office walls and walkways.
Ocean Beauty’s Excursion Inlet facility will be processing the fish that would have gone to the Petersburg plant this summer, the company said in a press release.
“We are disappointed to have to take this course of action, but we have no choice” said Jon Black, Ocean Beauty’s vice president of operations. “We have a pretty good idea of the extent of the damage, but a comprehensive assessment will take some time. Until we can absolutely guarantee that the working environment is safe, and that we are not at risk with any regulatory issues, there’s no way we can operate fish processing here,” he added.
Ocean Beauty has not released an estimate of the cost of the repairs.
“They have a fleet of 43 seiners and 17 tenders that will not be returning to us this year,” said Petersburg Harbor Master Glorianne Wollen. “These boats won’t be tying up and fueling up here. It’s a huge impact on us.”
The US Coast Guard began the investigation immediately after the incident, and released the ferry to return to service about two-hours afterwards. The ferry had only sustained superficial damage to its bow.
The Alaska Department of Transportation has been investigating the cause of the crash, but nothing has been finalized, said ADOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow.