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Busy port in search of director

February 10th, 2012 | Hannah Heimbuch Print this article   Email this article  

Just as Dutch Harbor launches into upgrades, expansions and the unveiling its new boat harbor, America's number one fishing port finds itself without a leader.

Former port director Alvin Osterback left the position he held for five years in mid December. Since the city began advertising for a new director, they've received one application, said Unalaska City Manager Chris Hladick.

It's too early to tell whether that candidate is the right one for the job, Hladick said, but he looks forward to filling the critical role as soon as possible. In the mean time Director of Public Safety Jamie Sunderland has stepped in as interim director.

"Sometimes, I think with any organization, someone internal just has to step up and help out," Sunderland said. "There's a lot of good folks out at ports and the entire staff is stepping up and getting the critical work done."

Both Sunderland and Hladick pointed to the brand new Carl E. Moses boat harbor as one of those critical issues at Dutch right now. Operations are going well, Sunderland said, but opening up a $72 million boat harbor is no small gig, and they're still settling into the day-to-day needs and functions of the facilities.

"Primarily it just offers a lot more capability in our community to accept boats, particularly in between the 30 and 150 foot range," he said. "We're seeing more and more boats interested in long term slips and if you were to drive by there today you would see far more boats than you did three weeks ago."

Dutch needs a director that can take on management of that new space, as well as plans for future projects, Hladick said. That includes a $28 million renovation of the Unalaska Marine Center dock. That project is in planning stages now.

"We're looking for somebody who has experience with both fishing and cargo, and transportation," Hladick said, adding that some experience in the oil industry may come in handy in coming months as well.

If Shell were to go through with its interests in drilling offshore in the Arctic, Dutch could potentially become a base for 70 or 80 vessels related to those efforts. That would be a major shift in customer base for the fishing port, and Hladick said the future director should be prepared to handle that potential development.

That being said, another primary concern is maintaining the relationship between the port and the commercial fishing fleet based out of Dutch, Hladick noted.

"We've been a commercial fishing port for many years, and they're our number one customer," he said.

Between the normal fluctuations of the fishing industry, the possibility of Shell coming to town and an important leadership role up for grabs, there are a lot of questions on the table in Dutch.

Sunderland's experience has given him even more insight into the demands and values of the job. From port operations to industry changes, and the general challenge of life in the Aleutians, it could be one exciting role to fill, he said.


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