The majority of freight and supplies for the state of Alaska enters through the Port of Anchorage. One of these products is bulk powdered cement.A number of years ago, Alaska Basic Industries, a joint venture between CalPortland and Alaska Sand & Gravel, the terminal owner and operator, looked at various options to increase the storage capacity at the Port of Anchorage. The existing terminal had silo storage that was inadequate to hold the entire cargo of a single cement ship, without either light loading the ship or using offsite storage. The import situation in Anchorage is further complicated in the winter months, due to the presence of ice on the Knik Arm (the location of the Port of Anchorage): the ships that are used for transporting cement are not built to travel through the ice present on the Knik Arm during the winter months.
As a result, the terminal needs to have sufficient storage of cement to meet customer demands from the end of October through to mid to late April, without additional ships. The terminal was struggling to meet the growing customer demand through the winter months with the storage capacity available on and offsite. Economic growth in the Alaskan market is resulting in increased demand for cement throughout the year, with some of the new customers requiring cement supply year-round. This was putting increased pressure on the terminal to store larger quantities of cement, before the start of the ice season, to meet customer demand.
Alaska Basic Industries did have the option to haul cement to an offsite facility, where a warehouse had been converted into a flat storage facility. This required precise coordination and planning for each ship, to ensure that both the terminal and flat storage were nearly empty and that bulk cement haulers were available. The offsite haulage of cement increased the cost of ship unloading. This presented a large operational security risk to the business, since any delay in the arrival of the ship potentially created a shortage of cement in the Alaskan market, due to the need to have both the terminal and flat storage facilities nearly empty.
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