Monday, November 2, 2009

Could the Oasis of the Seas Have Been Built in Seward?

This ship is about to enter service. It is huge, and is the largest cruise ship yet built.

It was built in a city in Finland. The city, Turku, is more than 100,000 people smaller than Anchorage. Turku's metro area, of about 300,000, is slightly smaller than that of Anchorage.

Turku is situated at 60 degrees, 27 minutes Northern Latitude. Seward, Alaska is situated at 60 degrees, 7 minutes Northern Latitude. Anchorage is at 61 degrees, 13 minutes NL.

Turku's citizenry is highly educated, and they find jobs:

"The city is also a renowned high-tech centre – the Turku Science Park area in Kupittaa hosts over 300 companies from the fields of biotechnology and information technology, as well as several institutions of higher learning."

Turku - again over 100,000 people smaller than Anchorage, has its own medical school, affiliated with one of its several universities.

The construction of the ship above, the Oasis of the Seas, brought over $1,000,000,000.00 into the city's economy. Its sister ship is on the ways, due to be completed in 2010. The shipyards are full of many ships being constructed, including ferry boats, cargo ships and other vessels. The company that built it probably paid about 12 per cent of their local profit to local income taxes.

The union workers who built it make an average of about $65,000 U.S. From that they pay an 18 percent local income tax. Additionally, their national (very graduated, with few loopholes) national income tax is high. Their medical care is what we would call "socialized medicine."

Many Alaska politicians lament the prospects for our future, once the oil runs out and the pipeline becomes disused. They threaten cuts in every realm of the public sector. Anchorage, with a zero percent sales tax, significant property tax (Turku's property tax is around five mils), and no local income tax, is cutting services right and left, with no practical solutions planned for long-term local infrastructure sustainability. Turku is rapidly expanding its higher education institutions and other public sector services, particularly in low-impact transportation, such as light rail.

Back in the mid to late 1990s, a number of high tech companies in the lower 48 were considering relocating in southcentral Alaska, either in part or totally. Few did. Why?

A young man, employed to research the environment for high tech in the Mat-Su Valley, came to stay with Judy and me for over two weeks in 1998. His final report, made after interviewing city officials in Wasilla (then-mayor Sarah Palin couldn't fit him into her busy schedule), Palmer, the Mat-Su Borough and the borough school district, was that relocation was inadvisable. The quality of local education, which had been high in the early 1990s was, as his report put it, "in a free fall." Politics, at the time, he observed, were in the hands of "a few conservatives who believe the world is only a few thousand years old and may end very soon."

The company, instead of relocating to the Wasilla area, moved to Whitefish, Montana and the outskirts of Spokane.

Our Alaska politicians have become so oil and mineral development centric, so protective of the use of the permanent fund to be reserved exclusively for individual dividends, so hostile to unshackled higher education, that we are selling ourselves and our future very, very short.

Turku is just one of many cities as far north as Anchorage or Seward that seems to manage to do well, with or without oil.

The keys to long-range economic development are a quality environment for education from pre-school through doctoral studies; politicians and administrators with true vision; affordable medical care for all; and freedom from the severe limitations on critical thinking that come from trust in the biased, sometimes hateful practices of fundamentalist religions, be they Christian, Muslim, Judaic or any other weird sect.


Albert Lewis said...

>"The construction of the ship above, the Oasis of the Seas, brought over $1,000,000.00 into the city's economy."

Only a million? Seems very low.

Philip Munger said...


Fixed it - over a billion to build the ship. Mch of the money spent - of course - in the Turku economy many times over.

Frank LI NY said...

Very interesting, and also quite sad. I think the majority of the Alaskan government should be recalled. There is only so much candy on an all day sucker.

Anonymous said...

Palin, kohring, masek

Get over it Phil, tell your kids to never come back because it won't change

they breed more than you

Akglow said...

Watching and listening to the "one track" mind of our Alaskan Politicians does make me question the theory of evolution.

Anonymous said...

Building the Oasis of the Seas in Seward would be rather extreme. Perhaps a small State of Alaska Sailing School Ship just over 100 tons for United States Coast Guard certification programs might be more practical. In fact, while we are free to develop new modern industries and create employment for our selfs, we should get this Sailing School Ship ( work boat mind you) designed to navigate in the ice with the International DNV certification. This will allow for cheaper insurance, the ability charter in the ice filled poles, and for taking students aboard. Heavy weather sailing and seamanship is a practical skill set, with the planet become stormier do to climate change.

Would be kind of fun to bring the, "poles to the classroom", realtime from an Alaskan built Sailing School Ship!

There are many examples of new progressive educational vessels that have been built around the world.

If I could post photo here I could show plenty of modern progressive sailing work vessel.

I find that our political and educational focus in Alaska is much more in the resource extraction. We like to pretend that there is always going to be fish to catch and oil&gas to pump.

For those of you that want to study a few sailing school vessels designed for the poles check out the links below. (new project) (Great polar class school ship vessel for the coast of Alaska, Polar65!)

WE sure are missing the boat in Alaska!!!!

my email is:

Philip Munger said...

Anon @ 11:03,

Excellent points about scale, polar uses and ways to integrate such vessels into somewhere like Seward. I'd heard about this ship, but you links are quite helpful. I hope to take this subject further.

I didn't feel very comfortable using a cruise ship as an example, but it was there.

Anonymous said...

Connecting our coastal communities in the north with a science and technology vessel, witch demonstrates renewable energy would be timely, unifying, and uplifting.

Having the Vessel travel with the whales and seabirds to Mexico and then Hawaii on an annual journey would be working with the natural forces of the planet. Working with the wind and the water, is the only way to save the day. I call it the North Pacific Triangle, with Alaska being the home port! Well have lots to do connecting with the Sea Weed organizations in the North Pacific.

Jim said...

The Jones Act killed commercial shipbuilding in the United States. We drive foreign built cars, we fly foreign built planes, but we can't sail in foreign built ships (or ship goods in them) between any two U.S. locations.

Ever since that Washington State congressman, Jones, got his act passed 70 or 80 years ago, the only large ships we've managed to build domestically have been warships. The largest U.S. built ships are aircraft carriers, and the Finns (or the Italians) could probably build those a lot cheaper for us too.

One of the reasons Jones got his protectionist act passed was to make sure only U.S. (especially Washington State) built-ships would sail between Washington State and Alaska

I hate the Jones Act! It should be revoked. This is a prime example of why protectionism doesn't work. Unfortunately democratic congressmen and senators still support it-- about 10 years ago, when I lived in California, Barbara Boxer explained to me why she supported the Jones Act, and it was basically for protectionist reasons.

Protectionism doesn't work. Protectionism (the Jones Act) killed domestic shipbuilding in the United States.

Anonymous said...

If building ships like this could be done profitably in Seward, what real reason is there that they aren't being built there?

Can we really blame our admittedly brain-dead legislators? (Without blaming us?)

Our legislators spend a lot of money on higher education in Alaska. I'm just not convinced they've insisted vehemently we get the most bang for our buck. Maybe you'll disagree with me, but I think it was a terrible waste of resources to build up UAA and the other satellite campuses with Alaska's small population.

I very much appreciated this post, however. Just to see someone putting out these ideas makes my day.


Anonymous said...

Manufacturing anything in the USA in 21 century is a challenge. Union wages, health care, insurance, osha ext., make for a very taxing environment.

In Homer we do quality small boats of all materials. We have fine craft-mans is steel, aluminum , wood, and composite construction. We are very independent operators so to speak. Kind of like," my boat my way", mentalities. True Alaskan spirits mind you.

What we lack is a history of working together on larger naval projects. We lack the boat building tradition of Washington State or Maine. We don't have the organization or the tools, and shops for larger project to come together.

Political Leadership is absent in our state for creating new industries, that would manufacture efficient coastal transportation/science/education vessels. I'm talking vessels in the 35-125 foot class. Small commercial work boats not ships of massive scale.

In Europe and Asia all students have a class in Mechatronics. Mechatronics, is kind of a 21st century term that combines the disciplines of mechanics, electronics and computer control. Its pretty much how the world manufactures. Strait from the computer design to a computer controlled cutting tool. (CNC)

I get a big kick in home with are wooden boat building club. They want to Keep the traditional old fashion skill alive and don't think about having a machine cut out your peaces of wood or aluminum to a .001 of a inch in a tenth of the time. Mostly we are years behind the times in Alaska because of our location. We are decades behind Europe when it comes to building vessels is a efficient systemic way. We work harder not smarter and are very proud for it. I think its time to be smarter, wiser, healthier, and kinder.

Many countries have large Maritime Universities who's major is efficient vessel design and manufacturing. There comes a time for technology transfer, and that time is now, and Alaska is the place. We do not need to reinvent the wheel to create a industry that is successful in Alaska. Some times our Alaskan syndrome prevents us from forging into green pastures.

Political leadership is key for our state to make these steps into an uncertain future. A future were energy, ecology, biology, and sustainability with be the fist objectives.

Polarbear said...

Good post, Phil. You have challenged your readers like never before. How do we get big things done of obvious value to our communities? You know, the largest company in the valley actually is a manufacturer, an integrator of telecommunications components into commercial systems. The owner of NHTI helped deploy the very first satellite earthstation for commercial telecom in the state, and has been instrumental in most of the large microwave and cellular deployments in Alaska, and many in the lower '48 as well. I think NHTI built the Nek Lake earthstation near you, originally for PTI before they became Alascom and then AT&T. NHTI has been consistently productive and growing across both Democratic and Republican administrations. Without question, the owner knows how to start, grow, and sustain a technology business in Alaska, and uses union labor. I suggest obtaining NHTI's comments on your proposal.

In my opinion, the secret to pulling together projects on this scale is leadership and collaboration. We need business, community, and political leadership able to work together. Unfortunately, many of our most important communities are grid-locked by hyperpartisanship.

Dee said...


This is one of the most moving, powerful essays I have ever read. I am presently living in Europe, and I see here the care and support of the labor force with secure, well-paying jobs and universal health care. I see vibrant, thriving factories. The richness in spirit and money that comes to all of society here is really difficult to explain and describe to brow-beaten American workers and cities. You did a great job with your essay--forcing us to see the contrast between what is being done in the U.S. and what is possible in other parts of the world.

tomandlou said...

The Politicians of today (and into the past ) are arrogant,elitist and hostile to the American public and their will.The founders of this country had no plan for career politicians serve THE PUBLIC for two years and go home . No huge pension plans no wealth building at the expense of citizens.Just normal smart people with the welfare of the country at heart .The billions of dollars spent for campaign's corrupt the mind in favor of the donor ! It's about time for Govt. reform ! The President can only serve two terms whats good for the Goose is good for the Gander.But alas it sounds like a pipe dream .Is it really

Anonymous said...

We have pretty much stopped are shop classes at the Homer High School. We have pushed higher education above the trades until we have a society of college educated kids that don't know how to get there hands dirty and build something useful. Pretty soon your going to need a Dr. degree to work at walmarts.

Here in Homer, 25 % of our kid drop out of school because they are experiential learners for the most part, and need to put there hands on something to understand it. We make fun of kids that take shop class in our culture. We push the arts and music which is cool, but not for kids that are tone death, or excel at space and relationship math and science.

Our schools like to kick out students that buck the system, because the kids are board, don't like being told what to do, don't sit well, or have family issues that need attention first. Our teacher control kids with TV's, not towing the line to be good, so that they can sail across the bay and leans sea skills in the free open ocean air. Kids need adventures and risk!

Our teachers are more concerned with there pers and ters, then keeping Johnny from dropping out of school and steeling guns for a good old time. Our teachers don't have any balls to campaign for building boats to take student out on an adventure. THat is much too dangerous, and cost of insurance would be too large. Johnny might get hurt and sue the school. Lets just put Johnny on drugs so that he can sit still in class and be normal.

You got to love how are schools just love American Football. They make sure that Johnny has to get at least a D on his report card so that he can go out and f*** someone up and become a star, or a roll model for the school. No one F***'s with big Johnny because he is the hit man on the football team. Johnny becomes the leader on and off the field. Drinking anyone? We have marching bands and cheerleaders rooting and tutting Johnny along to go out and Kill, Fight, Win!!! Ra Ra Ra!

And then we have a D student and below, that has issues with structure and administrators that ego trip out on Johnny. Johnny wants to be on a team but because of his poor grades, says F*** It, I will not be able to play anyway so I'll just go steel some guns and tweak some drugs.

Look how much money our schools got as part of the stimulus package. I think it was over 22 million for the Kenai Pen. THe teachers "when house" with lots of new computers and payed them selfs to lean how to use them. Do you think any of that money will ever be used as a School vessel project? We have a very dysfunctional education system that likes to pat itself on the back and buys multi retirement condos in warm places, with great state healthcare and retirement packages.

Instead of Johnny learning a trade and being a valuable productive member of our society, he end up in rehab if he is lucky or behind bars to support a dysfunctional system.

I want to see Johnny learn how to build contemporary vessels, and teach other students how to sail through storm warnings!

Polarbear said...

Anonymous 3:32 I teach grad-level engineering courses. I am not sure where your K-12 teachers are getting the notion that shop classes are not necessary for higher education. There is no substitute for the tactile feel for materials acquired from shop classes. It is one thing to read that steel has elasticity, it is quite another to experience the feel acquired from a torque wrench on a lug nut. Not only should all the students build the boats, an irreplaceable and motivating experience, they should also be taught the use of a sextant, reading a chart, reading a forecast, reading tide tables, and basic navigation. Moreover, real engineering is done in teams, composed of tradesmen, engineers from many disciplines, materials technicians, project managers, and so on. Those small team dynamics begin in high school shop class. All of the best engineers I work with out on the market have been amateur radio enthusiasts in high school, or taken a really good high school shop class, or participated in some extracurricular activity like robotics or rocket competitions or the like, or all of the above. And they all speak about those high school experiences being strong personal motivators.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Polar Bear. You sound like a great mentor. A breath of fresh air as far as I'm concerned.

Before I drove up to Alaska from Vermont in 1980, I dropped out of business school and sailed all around Europe and Africa, did a little racing along the way.

I've been working on boats and baiting hooks on conventional longliners for over 20 years, commercial fishing all over the west coast of the north pacific on the old Halibut Schooners. I've helped build a few boats along the way as well.

In 1991 a small team of us launched a 70 foot 3 masted conventional gaff rigged Cargo Schooner, down at the port of Anchorage. She was called, "Toothpick" , because she was a cold molded wooden vessel built out manny small peaces of clear Sitka Spruce. (Done with build wooden hulls now!)

It was a true pleasure to work with Floyd Epperson, on his retirement out of Alaska project. Floyd wanted to demonstrate the last days of working sail , with the efficiency of a 3 masted schooner, with Dacron lines and machined blocks. She was a wonderful heavy weather sailing vessel. One person could rase the sails with joy!!!!

Pulling on lines, guided through block and tackle rocks! Tuning the sails and blasting across the gulf of Alaska at 10 knots total made me forget about all the poundings, my father and older brother beset me. It was natural therapy of the highest regards!

alaskapi said...

Phil and commenters-
thank you for the whole shebang here...
Lots of good ideas, lots of conversation about what we need to work on... hopeful but realistic about what we lack.
My folks were teachers. The kind who once-upon-a-time students still contact me about ... 50 years later.
Dad taught middle schoolers science and math from every angle he could think of... from laying out and cutting stair stringers to show y=mx+b is real life important to making tiny solar ovens to cook picnics in... while students hiked and keyed out plants... from the early 50s.
We need ALL the practical and intellectual skills we can muster amongst ourselves to meet the challenges we face now... and will the day the oil runs out.

Kenrick said...

Great post -- for some time a number of us at UAA have been thinking about what factors led to Silicon Valley and if these factors could be deliberately implemented to build a "Silicon Arctic". We were thinking in the context of Saxenian's "Regional Advantage" book in which she describes her theory why Silicon Valley thrived while Route 128 business stagnated (the theory is that Route 128 businesses were too isolated/vertical while silicon valley had a wider, diverse network of talent and a culture of collaboration).

Turku is a great example of how such growth is possible with the Turku Science Park in which THE CITY instigated the effort and is the largest shareholder. The Science Park integrates university/research/academic collaborations with clusters of expertise and business incubation programs along with the public services that are needed in support. With a culture of collaboration there is innovation at relatively low cost; in the same region there is now expertise in plastics, materials, high tech (e.g. Nokia), maritime, satellite technology, and applications of IT. With critical mass, development has snowballed so it's no surprise that a marvel like the Oasis of the Seas can be built there. Anchorage/Seward is a long way away as our businesses don't have the networking connections with collaboration in mind, the university system is relatively weak from a research perspective, there is little technology transfer from research to industry, and the political wherewithal is lacking to put into place the factors that could create a Turku-like environment.

Anonymous said...

Its great to see support in developing a promising industry in Alaska. We are a hard working lot, just point us in the right direction every once in a while.

NHTI sounds like a great resource. I like to drive up from Homer and park in there driveway when there is a car auction next door a few times a month. I like to pick up classic German cars to restore every now and then.

Having UAA folks contribute is unusual as well. I will have to research about "Silicon Arctic". The creation of a Science Park sounds wonderful. I wounder if a common man like myself with a passion for developing Polar Expadition Vessel will be allowed access with out a college degree. My schooling was kind of hands on for the most part. I call it Schooner School! Some of my past shipmates like to call it the school of the, "The Quick the Fast and the Dead" After 25 years in the thick of the King Crab and Deep Sea Longlining fisheries in Alaska, you experance "living large", and almost "not living" a time or two. You learn when a vessel is over loaded the hard way most often. Its the best way to learn if the pain was not too dear.

I think that's why I'm so committed to developing a Sailing School vessel for Alaska. Sea lessons are best learned out at sea.

Philip Munger said...

Anon @ 5:20,

In March 1974, when I walked over the stern of the Martinolich crabber "Parakeet" with a Tanner crab pot line wrapped around my right knee, I learned a valuable lesson of the sea - when the pot gets down to about 90 to 100 feet, it starts "parachuting," a back-and-forth movement that slacks the line. I managed to break free and force my body upward.

Had I not been a scuba diver before I was a crabber, that might have been my last lesson.

Anonymous said...

Great story! I was a diver as well before I started my maritime pastime in Alaska. THe fist boat that I was trapped inside of a sinking vessel was in 1983 80 miles offshore. We kind of got greedy and packed the bow of a conventional longlingers with 100 pound Halibuts untill our stern was no longer awash. WEll, was the wrong thing to do but after 48 hours of manic work we were not doing matmatical caculations on stabilitie.

THe 44 foot lonliner sunk in less than a minite. I was just in my bunk in one of the deepest sleeps of my life when we started to roll over. Kind of a rude awakining. THe cold water was much more stimulating than the best european expresso.

Sometime noever learn what is enought until you experance too much. Lesson well learned that dark stormy night.