Anchorage economic and airport leaders pitch new cargo shipping initiative to ease supply chain disruptions

A Singapore Airlines Cargo plane taxis for departure at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on April 27, 2013. (Creative Commons photo by BriYYZ)

Anchorage economic development officials are joining Anchorage airport officials in touting a new cargo shipping initiative they say has the potential to help offset a growing supply chain problem.

Recent supply chain disruptions related to the pandemic have put a snag on distribution across the West Coast, leading to shortages and higher prices.

The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, in partnership with the Ted Stevens International Airport has released a feasibility study for a project called Anchorage Pacific Air-to-Sea Service, or ANC PASS.  

High demand for goods from Asia has resulted in a high demand for ocean freight, leading to delays in delivery to West Coast ports, the study says. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, AEDC president Bill Popp says the project works like a hybrid model of air cargo and ocean transport. 

“Rather than have it go by ship, have it go by airplane from Asia to Anchorage,” Popp said. “From Anchorage International Airport, consolidated into containers, put on the southbound vessels that leave from the port of Alaska into the port of Seattle, port of Tacoma. And then put back into truck mode for final delivery.”

Popp says ocean freight delivery times have gone from an average of 30 days to more than 75 days in recent months. The $100,000 study, conducted by Anchorage-based Naniq Global Logistics, says ANC PASS could bring freight to west coast ports in 6 to 7 days if flight times line up with existing marine carrier schedules — on the longer end, between 15-19 days. 

Additionally, the study estimates an average cost savings of 23 percent for ANC PASS versus strictly using air cargo. 

Dave Karp is senior VP for Alaska for Saltchuk, a marine shipping company. He voiced his support for the project at the press conference, highlighting a change in the reliability of marine transport. 

“Traditionally, you could put something on a container ship from Asia and get it across the Pacific and into the supply chain inside of 30 days pretty reliably, and you could do that affordably,” Karp said. “Today that game has completely changed.”

Saltchuk is the parent company of Naniq Global Logistics, the company that conducted the study.

Ted Stevens International Airport is currently the fourth-busiest airport for cargo in the world. Airport director Jim Szczesniak says he anticipates the project could bring economic benefits to the state even beyond the pandemic. 

“It’s a benefit to Alaska from a jobs perspective,” Sczerniak said. “There’s a lot of Alaskans out there working right now to process these flights , and we think that we’re now going to be this future nexus of where we can do this aircraft into sea component at the Anchorage airport.”

Popp with AEDC says officials are working now to market ANC PASS to potential buyers.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.

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