Trade with Alaska And Hawaii: Essential Services Spur Expansion

TOTE's Midnight Sun assisted Cook Inlet Tug & Barge

In Alaska and Hawaii, maritime companies operate as a vital link to communities geographically separated from the contiguous 48 states. Whether it is delivering everyday essentials such as food and fuel or the necessary materials to build hospitals and schools, these maritime firms use their know-how and resources to move what’s vital in a timely manner to areas that are at times tough to reach by vehicle.

Here’s a look at some West Coast maritime companies and how they’re serving the regions of Alaska and Hawaii:

Cook Inlet Tug & Barge
Cook Inlet Tug and Barge – the longtime marine transportation company with deep experience in Port of Anchorage and Cook Inlet, Seward, Southeast Alaska, Aleutian Islands, the North Slope, and Western Alaska – continues to invest in the region it serves.

In April, the company added to its 11-vessel fleet the Bristol Wind, that will team with sister tugboat, the Capt. Frank Moody, in moving cargo along the Arctic coastline for the construction, and oil and gas sectors.

The shallow-draft tug – painted with the company’s blue and white colors – will be homeported in Anchorage.

Drawing only 3.2 feet, the new tug can lighten the draft in very shallow water depths and safely support projects throughout the state, said Michael O’Shea, Senior Director of Business Development and Planning for Cook Inlet.

The tug’s capabilities allow it “to safely service river and coastal locations that would otherwise be unreachable by conventional tugs,” he said.

The new tug – part of five vessels that have been added to the fleet in the last 16 months – reflects the company’s ongoing commitment to the region.

“Of the current 11 vessels, four were added in just the last year,” said Jeff Johnson, President of CITB. “The Bristol Wind is a shallow draft tug, with capabilities that are perfect for the Arctic coast. Once the ice-free season begins, she will get to work aiding our customers in Western Alaska, potentially on the Yukon river, or near Kotzebue and Utqiagvik (formerly Point Barrow) and elsewhere along the coast.”

And the fleet is expected to grow past 11 vessels, he said.

“We see a lot of opportunity to support customers and the community in Western Alaska,” said Johnson. “The addition of the Bristol Wind will increase our ability to bring safe and timely services to the growing needs of the region.”
Along with helping freight, construction, and oil and gas companies in the far north, Cook Inlet also offers vital harbor services to Alaska’s economy.

About 90 percent of all consumables and supplies come through the Port of Alaska where Cook Inlet works to make sure those vessels arrive safely and on time.

In the port of Seward, CITB – operating under DBA Anderson Tug & Barge – offers mooring services for cruise ships, ship and barge assists, launch services, and other types of support to shipyards.

The company also offers ocean tows for petroleum fuel barges all along the west coast and as far north as Nome, Alaska. Most tows are to towns and villages unreachable by road and CITB offers them that critical link to fuel.
“Our name says Cook Inlet, but it is beyond that. We are Alaska’s tug and barge company,” said Johnson. “We were founded here in 1924, most of us are from here – I’m fourth generation – and it is important to all of us at CITB to support the growth in Alaska while also caring for our community.”

Lynden Companies
With its family of companies that include Alaska Marine Lines and Aloha Marine Lines, Lynden is able to offer a spectrum of services and reach a number of clients, including those in Alaska and Hawaii.

Lynden’s approach to Hawaii and Alaska are similar.

“Alaska and Hawaii have a lot in common from a logistics perspective,” said Alex McKallor, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Lynden Inc. “Although the exact combinations are different from those used in Alaska, we similarly leverage multi-modal options to move freight between Hawaii and the mainland.”

In Alaska last year, Alaska Marine Lines successfully expanded barge service to the Alaskan North Slope villages of Point Hope, Point Lay, Wainwright, Utqiagvik (Barrow), and Kaktovik, as well as Deadhorse.

These locations are within the Arctic Circle along the state’s northernmost coastline.

“We’re looking forward to continuing that service again this year,” McKallor said. “Like many of our service improvements this was customer driven: communities throughout Alaska want reliable, cost-effective transportation. Lynden’s ability to seamlessly weave our marine, highway, and air capabilities together creates service possibilities unmatched in Alaska”.

Lynden’s ability to move goods by land, sea and air – and often a combination of those transport options – allows for supplies to be sourced domestically and internationally and reliably delivered throughout Alaska.

“We take pride in providing service to remote places like Nome, Bethel, Deadhorse, Utqiagvik, Kaktovik, and the many other towns and villages we serve,” McKallor said. “By barge, truck, plane, or even hovercraft, we mean it when we say we cover the entire state of Alaska.”

In Hawaii, Lynden’s Aloha Marine Lines offers bi-weekly barge service between Seattle and Honolulu with connections to neighboring islands, and Lynden International provides air and ocean freight forwarding services.

“Shipments needed quickly can go by ship or air, and our barge service provides a more economic option if speed is less important,” McKallor said.

Regardless of the speed requirements for a given shipment, customers can have their freight picked up from suppliers on the mainland and delivered to them in Hawaii by the same company.

“That flexibility really helps simplify the process for customers,” McKallor said.

US Coast Guard Sector Anchorage
In the spring of 2019, the Marine Safety Task Force initiative was initiated in an effort by the US Coast Guard’s Sector Anchorage to inspect dozens of remote fuel facilities to see how vulnerable they were to potential oil spills.

Most of the 380 fuel facilities in the sector’s jurisdiction are out of reach by vehicle.

“In the lower 48, Coast Guard inspectors can simply drive to fuel storage facilities to conduct inspections,” said Capt. Sean MacKenzie, sector commander. “Up here in Alaska, getting our folks to these places requires flying and often demands expensive lodging. Working with budget and personnel limitations during the Coast Guard’s busiest time of year are just a few of the challenges we overcame this year.”

Last year, thanks to the work of the task force and the support of active and reserve Coast Guard and Air Force’s Civil Air Patrol members, close to 60 percent of the facilities were inspected.

“Through the 2019 MSTF initiative, the Coast Guard inspected 236 bulk oil storage facilities in 102 Alaska communities,” said MacKenzie.

That’s nearly five times more than the previous year, according to USCG.

“CAP pilots with the Alaska Wing would fly hundreds of miles each day on these deployments, continuously dropping off and picking up teams of inspectors in remote villages as weather permitted,” said Chief Petty Officer Nathan Hatfield, a lead inspector at Sector Anchorage. “But weather did not always permit. On multiple occasions these pilots became stranded with us in remote locations due to unfavorable weather conditions.”

The agency stressed the importance of the inspections of these facilities, which could leave families in remote villages without heat or fuel if faulty or affect the area’s salmon fishery if an oil spill happens.

“Remote oil pollution incidents are significantly higher in cost due to the resources needed for clean up,” said MacKenzie. “Inspectors had all these risks in mind when communicating to facility owners and operators about the cost of infrastructure upkeep and oil spill prevention versus the liability for cleanup costs associated with an oil spill.”

The agency hopes to complete inspection of the remaining facilities this year.

Matson’s Newest Vessel
Days before the start of 2020, Honolulu-based carrier Matson, Inc. received the first of its two Kanaloa Class combination container/roll-on, roll-off vessels from General Dynamics NASSCO.

The Lurline is part of Matson’s $500 million investment of these types of ships, which feature an enclosed garage to accommodate about 500 vehicles, plus lots of room for rolling stock and breakbulk cargo, according to the company.

The 870-foot-long Kanaloa Class vessels have a deep draft of 38 feet, weigh more than 50,000 metric tons and include modern, green technology. The two vessels will replace a trio of diesel-powered ships in active service and move them into reserve status, Matson said.

The Lurline is the third of four new ships that Matson is entering into service between 2018 and 2020, according to the company.

Kapalama Container Terminal
Meanwhile, the second phase of the Kapalama Container Terminal Project is ahead of schedule and on budget, according to the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Harbors Division.

The multi-million-dollar project – the centerpiece of the Harbors Modernization Plan and the biggest capital improvement project in its history – began with a $163 million Phase 1 in January 2018.

That work included adding 65.5 acres of container yard space that will be adjacent to an existing inter-island cargo area, making access between facilities easier and helping to curb highway traffic by about 50,000 truckloads annually.
Phase 2, which is expected to be done in 2023 and cost around $200-300 million, will encompass waterside construction at Piers 40-43 in Honolulu Harbor.

This will include 1,800 linear feet of new berthing space, allowing two container ships to dock at the same time and up to six gantry cranes, and adding 18.5 more acres of “hardened container strength operational areas” next to cargo vessels, according to the agency.

Phase 2 will also encompass dredging along the waterfront and in the harbor channel and expanding the width of slips between Piers 40 and 43.

“Positive improvements are underway at our commercial harbors that will enhance operations for the harbor users, which ultimately benefits the public as a whole,” said Deputy Director Derek Chow, Hawaii Department of Transportation Harbors Division. “This project is especially exciting because it will help address our capacity issues and meet the growing economic demands for the long term, that when complete, overseas transfers of containers to the interisland carrier will reduce traffic around the harbor’s surrounding roads.”

By Pacific Maritime