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dock construction finished in 2005, and topped off with the terminal building in 2009. Offshore support vessels (OSV) made up a large portion of the traffic at MacKenzie. “Sixteen miles of concrete coated pipe came in for the Nikiski pipeline,” Van Dongen says. “We stored it over the winter and we loaded it on OSVs, which hauled it down the Inlet for a new pipeline from Furie’s Kitchen Lights natural gas platform to Nikiski.” While that was happening, the port also utilized its barge dock to offload ten barges of general cargo and heavy construction equipment. “We improved the one-mile road inside the port, Lu Young Lane, from twenty-two feet to thirty-four feet in width to accommodate two-way traffic for tractor trailers hauling cement, fuel, and coal.” The main corridor, Don Young Road, was also paved last year. In one of the most frugal construction moves of last year, Van Dongen says they spent two months installing equipment on the steel pilings of the docks to extend the life of the piles. “Electricity provides cathodic protection to the steel pilings that slows the rate of corrosion,” he explains. In Van Dongen’s eyes the most important improvement is the rail extension and loop from the main line at Houston to just above the MacKenzie docks. The most efficient

mode, according to Van Dongen, is a single rail with sidings that leads to a mile-long loop where rail cars would discharge their cargo as the train moves around the loop to reconnect with the main Alaska Rail Road tracks. “This opens up the port to the potential for exporting millions of tons of valuable resources across Alaska and, in the future, connecting with Canadian rail to markets in the Lower 48. “With an efficient rail line and loop to export resources we’ll see a dramatic increase in export tonnage at Port MacKenzie,” Van Dongen says. That’s also a recipe for larger ships, faster turn-arounds, and higher revenues.

Hands Across the Waters

Despite the seemingly opposite activities of the two ports—Anchorage importing consumer and building goods and MacKenzie exporting raw resources—the two also cooperate and mutually assist each other in their respective missions. “In my sixteen years at Port MacKenzie, this is the best working relationship I’ve had with the Port of Anchorage,” Van Dongen says. Ribuffo echoes that sentiment; “It makes sense for us to work together to benefit our stakeholders. It’s just better for business.” The two ports have worked together on several issues: finding a workable ferry landing site (a long term project that ended with the

sale of the Mat-Su Borough’s Susitna); working cooperatively with the US Army Corps of Engineers on a study of the Point MacKenzie shoal; and updating nautical charts to the shifting entrances to both ports. Last October the ports jointly hosted the annual Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators conference, which brought over 120 maritime managers, commissioners, and private sector vendors together in Anchorage for training and to discuss harbor and port issues. They are also planning an annual combined meeting of the respective port commissioners. Most importantly, they both share a vision of the future where both ports complement the other’s efforts. Empty backhauls are a big impediment to maritime traffic, says Ribuffo. “The ships come in here full of cargo, unload, and leave with mostly empty containers,” he says, precluding port calls by larger, more cost-effective vessels that are being increasingly utilized today. “One day, maybe fifty years from now,” Van Dongen says, “We’ll see bulk carriers coming in to offload containers from their upper decks at the Port of Anchorage and take on bunkers of coal, ore, or other commodities from Port MacKenzie for their return trip to Asia.”  R Alaskan author J. Pennelope Goforth is home ported in Anchorage.

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Alaska Business Monthly | March

Alaska Business Monthly March 2016  
Alaska Business Monthly March 2016  

“Forever Alaskan” Carol Gore, president and CEO of Cook Inlet Housing Authority, is a quintessential leader in creating affordable housing f...