Buccaneer still exploring winter moorage plans

Buccaneer Alaska has not decided on where to moor the jack-up rig Endeavour-Spirit of Independence after the end of operations this fall. The city and port of Homer have been encouraging Buccaneer to dock the rig at the Deep Water Dock, as happened last winter, and have written letters of support for Alaska Department of Fish and Game permit applications that might be needed to moor the rig.

“No plans have yet been finalized on what to do with the rig for the winter,” said Jay Morakis of JMR Worldwide, a spokesperson for Buccaneer.

Buccaneer has not yet applied for permits to moor the Endeavour in Kachemak Bay, said Ginny Litchfield, Kenai Peninsula Area manager, Fish and Game, Division of Habitat.

Although Buccaneer had not planned on doing so, last year it wound up docking the Endeavour in Homer for 218 days. In August 2012 the Endeavour was to visit Homer briefly before moving on to the Southern Cross Unit, but the visit stretched to months after Buccaneer discovered more work needed to be done to repair the rig. That visit resulted in $577,000 in port and harbor revenues and $181,000 in state oil property taxes paid to the city. The Homer City Council put the $577,000 in the port and harbor depreciation fund and the tax revenues into the city’s Permanent Fund. 

That boon doesn’t take into account the effect on the city’s marine trades industry, hotels and restaurants, retailers and other businesses. The city has commissioned an economic analysis of the Endeavour’s stay, but the report has not been completed.

“The most important thing was all the jobs,” said Homer City Manager Walt Wrede. “The marine trades guys were all busy.”

Wrede said it’s his understanding that Buccaneer does need to apply for Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area permits from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to moor at the Deep Water Dock with its legs down. After the Endeavour almost broke loose from its mooring during a winter storm, the jack-up rig put its legs down partially into the muddy substrate by the dock. Fish and Game allowed that because of the emergency.

Wrede said there are questions about if a jack-up rig needs a special use permit for mooring at the dock. Storing a jack-up rig — putting legs down — is prohibited in the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area plan. The plan exempts harbors and docks, but the statute enacting it does not, Wrede said. Part of the Deep Water Dock tidelands belongs to the state and is leased by the city, although the city is in the process of trying to get that land, Wrede said.

“The city is probably going to wind up as the owner of the tidelands the dock is on, but that doesn’t resolve the conflict between the critical habitat plan and the statutes,” he said.

The city also had talked with Furie Alaska about mooring the Spartan 151 jack-up rig, another rig working in Cook Inlet, but Furie will store the rig in English Bay near Port Graham.

“The city was open to have any proposal they might have to come here,” said Homer Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins. “In the end (Furie) chose to go back to Port Graham.”

The Deep Water Dock could accommodate both jack-up rigs, Hawkins said.

“I would have worked toward it, and we could have done it, putting both there and having moorage available,” he said. “We want those docks pulling their fair weight. We want them occupied all the time.”

Calls to Morakis regarding the status of any permit applications for the Buccaneer were not returned by press time.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.