Don Young Port of Alaska in Anchorage
Don Young Port of Alaska in Anchorage

Small Port, Big Challenges, Extreme Flexibility

Published: March 24, 2023

Building to satisfy current and future public needs and market demands

Seaports Magazine
By Steve Ribuffo, Director of the Port of Alaska

First Quarter 2023

If things go well, I’ll spend the next ten years fielding complaints from Port
of Alaska neighbors about construction noise, because our aging facilities need a lot of renovation and replacement.

Depending upon your point of view, Port of Alaska in Anchorage is either a small port, a big port — or a big, small port. It only handles about 5 million tons of fuel and freight annually. But this Municipality of Anchorage-owned and -operated port is Alaska’s primary inbound cargo facility that supports local, statewide, national, and international economic interests. It is one of 18 Department of Defense designated commercial strategic seaports that support U.S. military missions around the world. Its operations are essential for timely disaster response and recovery throughout Southcentral Alaska and across the state. And it handles three-quarters of the fuel used at Ted Stevens
Anchorage International Airport, the world’s fourth busiest air cargo hub.

Port of Alaska markets and cargo logistics are tricky because its service area is huge — the whole state of Alaska — with a small population (only 733,000 residents) and extreme climate, geography, and seismic conditions. The state is a virtual island: with one, mostly two-lane road through Canada to the Lower 48, and no cross-border rail, pipeline, or electric transmission connections. More than 90% of Alaska inbound freight is delivered by ship or barge. Port of Alaska handles half of all Alaska inbound fuel and freight shipped into the state annually, including three-quarters of non-petroleum cargo (think food and consumer goods) transported into Alaska and consumed statewide. Alaska’s small population cannot economically support more than one major inbound cargo port, so Port of Alaska must maintain the flexibility to meet the state’s diverse cargo needs, from containers to break bulk, dry bulk, liquid bulk, RO/RO, LO/LO, military transport, barge service, and cruise ships.

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AAPA Seaports Magazine (AAPQ) - First Quarter 2023 - Small Port, Big Challenges, Extreme Flexibility (