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AEDC and Anchorage airport team up for Alaska shipping initiative, hoping to relieve West Coast supply chain woes

Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 9:37 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Economic Development Corp. and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport held a joint news conference on Wednesday to announce a new initiative aimed at alleviating the supply chain backlog hampering the West Coast.

The new project is called Anchorage Pacific Air to Sea Service, also known as ANC PASS. Instead of having a ship go directly from Asia to ports on the West Coast, it would send a cargo plane from Asia to the Anchorage airport. From there, goods would be packed into containers and driven to the Port of Alaska, loaded onto southbound ships leaving for Ports in Tacoma or Seattle where they’ll be picked up for final delivery.

“The U.S. West Coast port challenges are what really caught our attention,” said Anchorage Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Bill Popp.

Popp added most ships heading southbound out of the Port of Alaska these days have empty containers. Those working on the project feel it could help fill empty containers, relieve the supply chain snarl backing up West Coast ports and capitalize on the Anchorage airport’s use as a stop for cargo planes.

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is now the world’s fourth busiest airport for cargo, up from sixth place previously.

The ANC PASS concept isn’t new. Popp referenced a previous project in the past that was similar but said the research that went into this latest initiative is what made it different. The airport paid Naniq Global Logistics to study the idea at the start of the summer, and they recently completed a feasibility study.

Representatives from Matson and Saltchuk were also at the ANC PASS announcement and voiced their support for the project. They felt it will help diversify business logistics in the future and relieve current supply chain issues.

“Our view is this is a moment in time we’ve some drastic changes in the global supply chain,” Saltchuk Senior Vice President Dave Karp said. “A lot of the conversations we are having with our customers are about time, time is money.”

The next step for the supply chain solution is marketing and finding companies that will use it. Popp said they’ve invested in an advertising campaign aimed at national retailers and manufacturers.

Airport Director Jim Szczesniak said right now, about 94% of the trade weight coming from Asia to North America is being shipped via the ocean. If air cargo could tap into just 1% of that, he said, it could mean a 16% increase in air cargo activity.

“We looked at the amount of empty containers that leave Anchorage and go back to the ports of Tacoma and Seattle ... it takes 151 747 (planes) to fill those containers on a weekly basis,” Szczesniak said. “So it’s a substantial amount of capacity that’s available to send stuff back.”

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