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From the ports of Tacoma.

On Good Friday in 1964, a devastating earthquake rocked Alaska. For the next three months, Lynden Transport, Inc. shipped much-needed goods and produce to Alaska from Washington State via the Alcan Highway and by marine transport. Lynden used every transport vehicle the company could find.

Sea-Land Freight Services, Inc. also responded to the urgent need of its northern neighbors and shipped more than 126 containers (1,650 tons) of building materials and tools, as well as basic supplies such as food, blankets and clothing. This despite the fact Sea-Land was new to the Port of Tacoma and hadn't scheduled its first sailing until September. These emergency shipments became the first of the company's many regular shipments from Tacoma to Alaska.

The ties that were built during 1964 are still evident today. Port of Tacoma continues to be a hub of commerce from the world to Alaska, and is Alaska's hub to the world.

Cradled in the heart of Tacoma's Commencement Bay on 2,400 acres of land, the Port of Tacoma is an international hub for commerce. Transportation companies utilizing the facility travel worldwide, returning with goods destined for delivery to other ports. One such port is Anchorage.

Tacoma handles at least 70 percent of Alaska's waterborne commerce. If Alaska were a separate nation, it would rank as Washington's second largest export market (consumer goods), excluding aerospace.

In 1994, more than 22,000 jobs in Pierce County were related to the Port of Tacoma's activities, and port-related jobs generated $628 million in annual wages. About 8,547 of all transportation jobs in the region (9.5 percent) stemmed from trade with Alaska. These transportation jobs translated into $333.4 million in annual earnings.

Exports to Alaska supported 4,690 manufacturing jobs with annual earnings of $166.4 million. Alaska trade also accounted for an additional 2,000 indirect manufacturing jobs with $68.6 million in annual labor earnings.

The strong ties continue.

Last year, Tacoma was touted as the sixth largest container port in North America and ranked among the top 25 container ports in the world. The importance of the port's Alaskan connection can not be understated. In 1997, Alaska business generated over $3 billion in trade, and 9,000 Puget Sound jobs were directly related to Alaska trade.

Sea-Land Freight Service, Inc. and Totem Ocean Trailer Express accounted for 420,000 of the 1,143,000 container TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) that moved through the Port of Tacoma in 1997.


"In economic terms, what is good for Alaska is also good for Tacoma," said Shari Gross, president of Gross and Associates and a consultant to the Port of Tacoma. "Alaska is an important trading partner to Washington. I feel the Port of Tacoma works hard at building a good, healthy relationship between Washington and Alaska."

Gross, who lived in Alaska for more than 25 years, still has roots in the Great Land. Appointed to represent the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce in Alaska, she is seated on the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. She is also a member of the Resource Development Council, and Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference.

"The most important thing I do is ensure representatives from the Port of Tacoma and their counterparts know each other," said Gross.

Once a year, several maritime companies, along with others led by the Tacoma/Seattle Chamber of Commerce, host the Alaska Chambers' Executive Committee to discuss mutual concerns and explore opportunities that would benefit both Washington and Alaska.

"We have a variety of cargo that moves through the Port of Tacoma," shares Rod Koon, director of Port Relations. "Even Christmas trees are shipped north."

Also shipped by sea are Alaska's fresh produce, groceries, household goods, furniture, automobiles, machinery, equipment ... even brick and mortar.

In 1997, building materials moved through the port supporting expansion or construction of the Red Dog lead & zinc mine, Anchorage and Fairbanks school projects, the Healy Clean Coal Project, the Elmendorf Air Force Base hospital, and University of Alaska Anchorage student housing.


Sea-Land occupies 132 acres at the Port of Tacoma and operates three container ships between Tacoma, Anchorage, Kodiak and Dutch Harbor. James Keough, manager of business development (Alaska Division), said that sailings are timed twice a week so Alaskan merchants and their customers have deliveries arriving on time. Wednesday sailings ensure goods reach their destinations before the weekend, and Friday sailings meet beginning-of-the-week demands.

Sea-Land's intermodal network links Alaska with thousands of points in the Lower 48, Canada and Mexico through trains and a far-reaching truck service. Globally, Sea-Land's reach stretches through Asia, Europe and other foreign markets. In fact, Sea-Land's worldwide shipping network connects Alaska to 120 ports in 90 countries.

Containers can be loaded at any city or town in the continental U.S. and quickly railed or trucked to Tacoma, then lifted aboard an Alaska service vessel. The same container is then delivered to the customer in Alaska, eliminating any re-handling of freight.

Vessels not returning immediately to the Port of Tacoma from Dutch Harbor, the largest seafood processing port in the world, carry Alaska fish to Japan. Fish bound for Asia are staged in Port of Tacoma facilities awaiting favorable Asian market prices, making Washington Alaska's warehouse. Alaska's seafood - to include salmon, halibut, bottomfish, herring, crab, surimi and fishmeal - are also delivered throughout North America and Europe by Sea-Land.

In Alaska, the company's barge and truck network services Anchorage, Kodiak, Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay, the Interior railbelt, the Aleutian Chain, Bristol Bay, the Pribilof Islands and the Kenai Peninsula. Sea-Land's Anchorage office employs 40 non-union and 500 union employees.


Totem Ocean Trailer Express, occupying 41 acres at the Port of Tacoma, operates three roll-on/roll-off trailerships between Tacoma and Anchorage. The vessels can complete the 1,447-nautical-mile or 1,650-statute-mile voyage in 66 hours. During the busy summer season, TOTE makes three weekly trips to Alaska, and prides itself in arriving within one hour of the scheduled dock time 95 percent of the time.

Ship capacity allows for transport of 390 trailers of various lengths (100 can be supplied with power for refrigeration or heating) and 100 automobiles.

In addition to grocery items, TOTE regularly transports construction materials, personal household goods, rental cars, privately owned vehicles, commercial vehicles, military cargo and retail store merchandise. TOTE has contracts with well-knowns such as Home Depot, Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, and Carr-Gottstein.

"If it has wheels, we can ship it," explains Jeff Keck, TOTE's vice president of operations. Though some container cargo makes its way on board, TOTE prefers wheeled cargo as employees roll, not hoist, cargo aboard vessels.

TOTE's cargo to Seattle may include frozen seafood, household goods in moving vans, vehicles (personal and military), and containerized ore. TOTE's partnership with Alaskans for Liter Prevention & Recycling (ALPAR) sees recyclables brought south at no charge. TOTE has established its own line-haul trucking operation extending to Fairbanks, Kenai, Homer, Seward and Valdez.

Jeff Keck shares, "there is a family feel to this company; we know our customers and we have a strong sense of community."


Lynden Transport, Inc. operates a 9.9-acre truck terminal and container-freight station just a few miles from the Port of Tacoma's docks. Lynden utilizes both Sea-Land and TOTE vessels to economically transport goods to Alaska.

Dave Neeley, president of Lynden Transport, said shipments may include supplies going to Kinney Shoes, American Greeting Cards, Fred Meyer Stores, and Home Depot, just to name a few.

"Can you imagine anything worse than no Kodak film in Alaska stores during the summer?" Neeley asks.

Jim Beck, vice president of operations at Lynden, said companies save by using marine transportation, as it's more expensive to move freight by highway or air.

Lynden uses its own trucks in the Puget Sound area, as well as in Alaska where they transport goods to destinations through terminals at Anchorage, Kenai, Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay.

"If we were not utilizing TOTE's transport, we would have to own and maintain 500 tractors to pull all the trailers we have," he said.


Other Alaska-connected companies with facilities at the Port of Tacoma are Carr-Gottstein Foods Company, Tyson Seafood Group, Klondike-Pacific & SCS Refrigerated Services, and U.S. Oil & Refining Company.

In May of this year, Carr-Gottstein Foods Company (recently bought out by Safeway Stores, Inc.) broke ground on a major new warehouse and distribution center. And Tyson Seafood Group, which harvests and markets Alaskan fish, home ports its 38-vessel fishing fleet at the Tacoma harbor. Klondike has two frozen/refrigerated warehouses that handle frozen Alaskan Seafood, and U.S. Oil & Refining operates an oil dock and refinery in the Puget Sound port area. Some of the oil that arrives is of Alaskan origin.
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Author:Garland, Marsha
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Sep 1, 1998
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