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live at noon on Tuesday, March 31st.
Featuring Jim Jager, External Affairs Director, Port of Alaska
Port of Alaska in Anchorage handles half of all Alaska inbound cargo, half of which is delivered to final destinations outside of Anchorage, statewide – from the Kenai Peninsula, to Western Alaska, the North Slope and even Southeast. It handled some 4.3 million tons of fuel and freight in 2019, and it is supporting normal operations and delivery schedules during the ongoing corona virus pandemic.
The port is functioning well, but Alaskans face a looming cargo crisis that will start to impact their daily lives in the relatively near future – probably after COVID-19 and before the zombie apocalypse.
Anchorage opened its first docks more than half a century ago, in 1961, shortly after statehood, when Seward was the gateway to Alaska, and cargo vessels were a lot smaller than they are today.
Anchorage had Southcentral’s only deep-water dock that survived the 1964 earthquake and tsunamis – because its docks were new and Upper Cook Inlet is tsunami proof. Anchorage suddenly had Alaska’s main, inbound cargo terminal and its docks supported reconstruction, oil development, military missions and statewide economic growth.
These docks – with the help of a lot of maintenance – have long exceeded their design life and are expected to start failing due to loss of load-bearing capacity within the next eight years, possibly sooner if there is another big earthquake.
The Port of Alaska Modernization program aims to avoid this slow-motion disaster and:
- Replace aging docks and related infrastructure
- Improve operational safety and efficiency
- Accommodate modern shipping operations
- Improve resiliency – to survive extreme seismic events and Cook Inlet’s harsh marine environment
In-water construction starts next month on a new Petroleum and Cement Terminal at the south end of Port of Alaska’s existing docks. Workers will then move north with a carefully choregraphed project that will demolish old docks to make room for new docks, while maintaining ongoing fuel and freight operations.
The goal is to replace Anchorage’s docks before wharf-pile corrosion failure, the next big earthquake . . . or zombies.