A rockslide at the historic White Pass Railroad Dock in Skagway, Alaska, damaged the dock and caused minor damage to Discovery Princess on Thursday, June 23, 2022. No injuries were reported, but the hillside and dock will need to be assessed before repairs begin.
In the meantime, cruise ships are being diverted to different docks, while Quantum of the Seas had to skip its call in Skagway altogether on Thursday.
Rockslide Damages Popular Dock
According to the Skagway News, the rockslide occurred at approximately 6:30 a.m. local time, just as Princess Cruises’ Discovery Princess was docked and was about to clear passengers to debark for a day in the popular Alaskan port.
The rockslide damaged the east side of the dock closest to the shore, while ships tie up on the west side. A portion of the dock was crushed, and Discovery Princess apparently suffered some minor chips and scratches.
“No one was injured during the occurrence,” said Jacqueline Taylor-Rose, Marketing Manager for White Pass & Yukon Route, in a press release. “The cruise ships scheduled for the pier have made alternative plans for the day.”
The dock itself is a popular site for cruise passengers, as rocks up the steep hillside are painted by cruise ship crews when ships make their inaugural calls to the port. Reading the rocks can show just how vital cruise ship visits are to the local community, and how long cruise travel has been part of Skagway’s economy.
The dock is still usable, but must be reassessed by geotechnical engineers before it can be repaired and fully reopen.
Ships Reassigned, Quantum of the Seas Skips Port
Immediately after the incident, Discovery Princess was relocated to a different position on the dock, away from the damaged area.
Other cruise ships scheduled to arrive in Skagway on Thursday and Friday were diverted to different docks. Carnival Miracle changed to tendering its passengers to an appropriate debarkation point, Ruby Princess was moved to Broadway Dock, and Norwegian Jewel was moved to Ore Dock.
Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas was also scheduled to call in Skagway on Thursday, but because of the dock damage, was forced to skip the port of call altogether.
White Pass Railroad Dock is the only dock large enough to accommodate the Quantum-class Quantum of the Seas, which can bring as many as 4,905 passengers to Skagway in a single visit, as well as 1,500 crew members, many of whom enjoy the chance to go ashore in the historic, welcoming port.
Impact on the Community
The beautiful community of Skagway relies on cruise ship traffic during the summer season to bolster its economy for retail operators, tour guides, and restaurants. With Quantum of the Seas no longer visiting the port this week, that impact will be felt.
“Right now it’s kind of in the mode of trying to ascertain what the damage is and what the overall impacts are, but if you are a tour operator to a retailer or a restaurant owner, you obviously rely on those dollars and the Quantum is an exceptional boat,” Skagway Mayor Andrew Cremata said.
“So it’s definitely a lot but we’ve had to deal with cruise ships being diverted to other ports before so it’s a lot better than the last two years no matter what happened at this point.”
Most important is the fact that there were no injuries in the incident.
The same area of the hillside suffered a similar rockslide in 2017. Netting on the rocks helps to mitigate slides, and other measures have been taken to minimize the risk of slides.
“It’s part of the nature of living in Alaska, there’s rockslides and there are landslides and there’s nature and all these other things,” Cremata said. “Just grateful that nobody was injured. The municipality is already bringing up a geologist to take a hard look at this mountainside and see what kind of long-term mitigation can be done to make it safer than it currently is.”
While there have been no announcements yet about further cruise ship dock changes or diversions, the damage will be assessed on Friday and repairs made as quickly as possible to return the full dock to service.