Ocean Freight to and Around Alaska
Ocean freight is generally the most cost-effective way to move freight, and it’s a vital mode for both getting freight to Alaska and moving freight around Alaska.
In fact, the state’s reliance on ocean freight only continues to grow. From 2014-2020, the freight tonnage handled at the Port of Alaska at Anchorage increased by almost 25%. The port handles around half of the inbound freight for the state, 70-75% of which stays in the Anchorage/Mat-Su area.
Overall, the state of Alaska has a total of 58 commercial ports, five of which are among the U.S. Department of Transportation’s list of the 150 busiest ports in the nation, based on volume shipped inbound and outbound.
In other words, ocean freight is a critical mode for Alaska freight.
Additionally, Alaska’s 58 commercial ports act as a lifeline to move freight all around the state. A network of barges connects Southcentral Alaska ports like Anchorage, Whittier, Valdez, and Cordova, as well as Southeastern Alaska ports like Juneau, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka, Haines, Skagway, and Wrangell.
Western Alaska ports like Bethel, Dillingham, Dutch Harbor, Naknek, Nome, and others are also accessible by barge from late March through mid-September. During the winter months, though, barges don’t run to Western or Arctic Alaska, so other modes, like air transportation, come into play.
And speaking of other modes, remember how we mentioned a rail connection to Alaska? There’s actually a rail barge to Alaska from Seattle—a boat with roll-on-roll off capacity for rail cars, plus racks for carrying cargo. Talk about Alaska ingenuity at work! We’ll explain more about this innovative method of moving freight in the section on rail freight below.
Although ocean freight is a cost-effective mode of freight transportation, it can also be a slower one. Let’s take a look at the kind of transit times you’re looking at for Alaska ocean freight.