Gwen
Holdmann

Director of The Alaska Center for Energy and Power
Exporting Energy: Will Green Ammonia Further Alaska's Oil & Gas Legacy? text
May 2022
May 2022 | Volume 38 | Number 5 | AKBIZMAG.COM

Contents

Features

Edge Computing

Rapid, private, and secure processing
By Tracy Barbour

The Cost of Living in Alaska

The single number that doesn’t exist
By Rachael Kvapil

No Sitting Still

Rearranging the office furniture market
By Amy Newman

Alutiiq Pride Marine Institute

Science and industry in Seward
By Nancy Erickson

Feeding Communities

Subsistence economy is more than cash and calories
By Isaac Stone Simonelli

Upper Tanana Bonanza

The glitter of Manh Choh gold
By Isaac Stone Simonelli

Building Up North

Capital improvements in the North Slope Borough
By Vanessa Orr

Beyond Shop Class

Training students for all careers
By Scott Rhode
Education: Beyond Shop Class

Beyond Shop Class

Training students for all careers
By Scott Rhode

Edge Computing

Rapid, private, and secure processing
By Tracy Barbour

The Cost of Living in Alaska

The single number that doesn’t exist
By Rachael Kvapil

No Sitting Still

Rearranging the office furniture market
By Amy Newman

Alutiiq Pride Marine Institute

Science and industry in Seward
By Nancy Erickson

Feeding Communities

Subsistence economy is more than cash and calories
By Isaac Stone Simonelli

Upper Tanana Bonanza

The glitter of Manh Choh gold
By Isaac Stone Simonelli

Building Up North

Capital improvements in the North Slope Borough
By Vanessa Orr
Special Section: Oil & Gas

About The Cover

She came to Alaska to mush dogs and finished the Iditarod and Yukon Quest, but Gwen Holdmann’s claim to fame—literally—is energy. From her off-grid cabin on the outskirts of Fairbanks, powered by solar panels and a wind turbine, to her day job as director of the Alaska Center for Energy and Power at UAF, Holdmann’s mission is to apply new technology to bring affordable electricity to remote households. “We get to have fun with this at the university,” she says, “thinking through these bigger ideas.” Holdmann was part of the inaugural class of the Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame in 2015, and now another innovator is setting up shop down the hall from her office. Nathan Prisco received an Arctic Innovator award from the US Department of Energy, and he’s looking for ways to keep Alaska’s energy infrastructure relevant in the post-petroleum era by converting to an entirely different fuel: ammonia.
Photo by Sarah Lewis

About The Cover

She came to Alaska to mush dogs and finished the Iditarod and Yukon Quest, but Gwen Holdmann’s claim to fame—literally—is energy. From her off-grid cabin on the outskirts of Fairbanks, powered by solar panels and a wind turbine, to her day job as director of the Alaska Center for Energy and Power at UAF, Holdmann’s mission is to apply new technology to bring affordable electricity to remote households. “We get to have fun with this at the university,” she says, “thinking through these bigger ideas.” Holdmann was part of the inaugural class of the Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame in 2015, and now another innovator is setting up shop down the hall from her office. Nathan Prisco received an Arctic Innovator award from the US Department of Energy, and he’s looking for ways to keep Alaska’s energy infrastructure relevant in the post-petroleum era by converting to an entirely different fuel: ammonia.
Photo by Sarah Lewis
Alaska Business (ISSN 8756-4092) is published monthly by Alaska Business Publishing Co., Inc. 501 W. Northern Lights Boulevard, Suite 100, Anchorage, Alaska 99503-2577; Telephone: (907) 276-4373. © 2022 Alaska Business Publishing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this publication June be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. Alaska Business accepts no responsibility for unsolicited materials; they will not be returned unless accompanied by a stamped, self addressed envelope. One-year subscription is $39.95 and includes twelve issues (print + digital) and the annual Power List. Single issues of the Power List are $15 each. Single issues of Alaska Business are $4.99 each; $5.99 for the July & October issues. Send subscription orders and address changes to [email protected].
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From the Editor

The oil and gas industry has had significant highs and lows over the thirty-plus years that we’ve been reporting on it, but this year feels like a turning point, a subtle change of scene signaling that, while certainly still on stage, oil may not remain in the spotlight. At Meet Alaska—a mid-March, one-day oil and gas conference organized by The Alliance—Rowena Gunn, Canada and Alaska Research Analyst for Wood Mackenzie, gave a global oil and gas update, in which she said that longer-term demand for liquids (essentially oil or gas) will peak in 2030 and then go into decline, though demand won’t disappear. Even in accelerated energy transition scenarios, which account for a concerted effort worldwide to pursue other forms of energy over oil and gas, Gunn still anticipates that in 2050 demand will be approximately 30 million barrels of oil per day and approximately 20 million barrels of oil equivalent per day of gas. “Current production decline cannot meet [that] demand, and much new production is needed,” she said.

As is standard with any thirty-year forecast, Gunn underscored throughout her presentation that “large uncertainty remains on the pace of the energy transition,” and even in the short-term, “there is large uncertainty on oil price supply and demand outlooks due to the Russia/Ukraine conflict.”

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EDUCATION
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Beyond Shop Class
Training students for all careers
By Scott Rhode
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lazers, blouses, and skirts hang on racks, but this isn’t a clothing boutique. In the Enterprise and Entrepreneurship lab at Martin Luther King Jr. Technical High School in Anchorage, students can borrow professional attire for a job interview or presentation. That’s just one way King Tech helps guide students into a career.

Entrepreneurship is a long way from the vocational school King Tech started as in 1974. At that time, shop class was for “hobbyesque” crafts and home economics was, well, for homes, says Kern McGinley, principal of King Tech. Nowadays, auto shop and carpentry are taught alongside nursing, cooking, video production, and, yes, starting a business—all under the umbrella of career and technical education (CTE).

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TELECOM & TECH
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Edge Computing
Rapid, private, and secure processing
By Tracy Barbour
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loud computing has a silver lining, of sorts, at its edge. Edge computing is an alternative to transferring data to a distributed cloud, which has limitations on bandwidth (transmission capacity) and latency (transmission delay). As networked devices become more numerous and powerful, edge computing is steadily growing in usage. By 2025, 75 percent of enterprise data will be processed at the edge, compared to only 10 percent today, according to technology research firm Gartner, Inc.

Edge computing is related to another somewhat recent technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), according to Kenrick Mock, a professor of computer science and dean of the UAA College of Engineering. “The central premise behind IoT is to have everyday objects and sensors connected to the internet,” he says. “Under the vision of IoT, your watch, thermostat, garage door, oven, refrigerator, and even your coffee mug could all connect, communicate, and compute via the Internet. In edge computing, there is the same vision of many interconnected computing devices, but the distinction is where the computation occurs. If you think of large, powerful, remote servers as being in the ‘center’ of the cloud that makes up the Internet, then the ‘edge’ of the Internet are devices on the periphery, such as your phone, laptop, thermostat, watch, or sensor.”

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Real Estate
The Cost of Living in Alaska
The single number that doesn’t exist
By Rachael Kvapil
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C

ost of living seems like a simple calculation. Alaskans have an intuitive sense of paying more for necessities than households in the Lower 48 do. Off the road system, stickers that would shock an urban shopper are an everyday feature of store shelves. City dwellers, too, have long known that Alaska is a frontier when it comes to affordability, with extra expenses for home heating and for buying food shipped from Tacoma.

Yet the historic “end of the road” is getting a little closer to market. Despite a jump in the nationwide consumer price index (CPI) of 7.9 percent in the last twelve months, Alaska is a much less expensive state to live in, compared to the Lower 48, than it used to be.

Retail

No Sitting Still

Rearranging the office furniture market

By Amy Newman

a work break room
D

epending on the source, annual revenue for the United States’ commercial furniture market was between $12.3 billion and $12.94 billion in 2020. Given the swift transition offices made to remote work when the COVID-19 pandemic sent the country into lockdown in March 2020, those figures might seem counterintuitive. The logical assumption was that COVID-19 would spell disaster for office furnishings.

It didn’t, and no one is more surprised than John Rafferty, COO of Capital Office in Juneau.

“Going back to when COVID had just hit and everybody goes into lockdown, you would have thought it wasn’t the best time to be in the commercial furniture business,” he says. “But Capital Office has been in business for seventy-five years, and I would say the last two years were our top five in terms of sales revenue.”

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Fisheries
Alutiiq Pride
Marine Institute
Science and industry in Seward
By Nancy Erickson

Birds Eye Photography

S

eward’s Alutiiq Pride Marine Institute quietly celebrated its 30th anniversary recently, but many residents and even some in the industry are unaware of the pioneering work the shellfish hatchery and mariculture research center has conducted.

Built by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game from criminal settlement funds resulting from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Mariculture Technical Center opened in 1992 with the primary purpose of producing oysters and clams for aquatic farmers.

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Feeding
Communities

Subsistence economy is more than cash and calories

By Isaac Stone Simonelli

“H

arvesting our personal food has been something that my family has always done,” says Johon Atkinson, a community wellness specialist in Metlakatla. “We’ve always harvested off the land and been able to fill our freezers with wealth, with investments.”

Atkinson is a full-time harvester of wild resources, in addition to his career in the cash economy. Hunters, fishers, and gatherers harvest an estimated 34 million pounds of wild foods annually, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADF&G) Division of Subsistence. Those foods provide 25 percent of calorie requirements and more than the entire nutritional requirement for protein in rural communities.

Oil & Gas
Oil & Gas
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t’s late in the first quarter of 2022, which means a relatively new tradition is taking place in Juneau: the annual debate over the amount of the PFD, which before Alaska’s five-year recession followed a well-established formula. As of publication, conversations about the October payout include the option of a $1,300 energy rebate in addition to a PFD of approximately equal size. To many of the state’s political leaders, it’s not enough money; to others it’s too much. All of them are keenly aware that Alaskans are dealing with a tight housing market, sky-high gasoline prices, and out-of-control inflation. At the same time, Alaska’s residents and businesses have been clamoring for years for a long-term, sustainable fiscal plan. So what’s the magic number that best serves Alaskans of today and tomorrow, considering the unusual mix of tight budgets and high oil prices?

Oil & Gas
Leif Van Cise | UAF
Colorless Green Ammonia Sleeps Furiously
Awakening the dream of carbonless energy
By Scott Rhode
H

ydrocarbons are a two-edged sword. One edge is hydrogen, storing energy like wound-up springs that is released when combusted with oxygen. The other edge is the carbon atoms the hydrogen is bonded to, which in the grip of oxygen become a climate-warming veil of carbon dioxide gas. Petroleum under the North Slope and methane under Cook Inlet have both potentials: productive energy from hydrogen and destructive pollution from carbon. In a decarbonizing global market, Alaska needs a way to separate the good from the bad.

“If we want to continue to be an energy exporting state, which is very much what we see ourselves as, we need to understand those markets are changing internationally,” says Gwen Holdmann, director of the Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) at UAF.

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Oil & Gas
ANWR Remains As It Ever Was
Exploration is at a standstill as various lawsuits wait for resolution
By Alexandra Kay
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e came so close. For more than forty years, the most enduring cause that Don Young advocated for, as Congressman for All Alaska, was oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Before he died in March, Young had seen a president sign legislation authorizing lease sales in ANWR’s coastal plain; he saw a lease sale actually carried out; and he was on the verge of seeing initial exploration toward eventual development.

The first exploration campaign is on hold, pending court action. And Young had one more counterattack in his pocket, a bill to prevent a moratorium on leasing in the refuge: HR 1726, the ANWR Act, which stands for “America Needs Worthwhile Resources.” His last ANWR bill was only the latest, after fourteen previous attempts to open ANWR.

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Oil & Gas
Eyes in the Sky, Ears on the Ground
Advances in remote sensing in the oil fields
By Isaac Stone Simonelli
B

yte by byte, technology is helping the oil and gas industry become more efficient, cost-effective, and safe. Advancements in remote sensing technology and their implementation allow oil and gas companies to collect higher quality data and act more precisely in the field.

“Using remote sensing, you can collect a lot more data a lot faster,” explains Adam McCullough, the Alaska program manager for NV5 Geospatial, which specializes in light detection and ranging (LIDAR) mapping.

The laser-based remote sensing technology—deployed on autonomous vehicles, fixed-wing aircraft, and helicopters—can provide detailed topographic maps, lake-bottom maps, and vegetation data.

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Oil & Gas
Oil and Arctic Nations
Eight approaches to energy in the far north
By Tasha Anderson
T

he development of oil and gas in the Arctic has been a hot topic for some time, but the reality is that oil produced in Alaska has always primarily come from the North Slope, solidly within the Arctic Circle. However, the majority of oil and gas production in the United States is not within the Arctic, as Alaska is currently the fifth largest oil producing state, following Texas, North Dakota, New Mexico, and Colorado.

Even though the state doesn’t lead US production (which is the current largest producer of oil in the world), Alaska’s location is what includes the United States as one of eight countries with territory in the far north. The others are Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia. Oil and gas operations in the eight Arctic countries are incredibly varied, ranging from national policies that discourage oil and gas to country-wide efforts to ramp up production. Below are broad overviews of the eight Arctic nation’s relationship with the oil industry.

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Oil & Gas
An Eye on Oil
T

he Trans Alaska Pipeline System is an iconic image of Alaska and the oil industry. Because many sections of the pipeline are easily accessible and traverse stunning Alaska landscapes, it’s often photographed and is instantly recognizable. In fact, when looking for oil infrastructure images in Alaska, more often than not the challenge is finding an image of anything else.

So Alaskans may be less familiar with other vistas of the state’s oil industry (if that’s the case, make sure to check out “Images of Infrastructure,” a photo essay of Alaska oil field infrastructure we published in October 2021). For Alaska Business, even more rare are opportunities to look at oil and gas operations around the world.

Alaska is one of the largest producers of oil in the United States, which is the largest producer of oil in the world, a position it’s held since 2018, yet we’re nowhere close to being alone in delivering oil to market. Worldwide private and publicly-owned entities conduct their own exploration and production activities, all of which feed into a vibrant global oil market that—as Alaskans well know—can be unpredictable and influenced by innumerable economic, political, and social factors.

Oil & Gas
Non-Trivial Trivia
How well do you know Alaska’s oil and gas industry?
By Connor Lockmiter
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I

t’s easy to take oil for granted in Alaska. The average citizen knows enough to be grateful that money from petroleum development is the reason the statewide income tax was abolished and why the Permanent Fund was established, sharing its dividends with residents each year. Beyond that, anyone not connected to the industry can be confused or overwhelmed by the terminology. Well, here’s some whelmable knowledge to increase appreciation for Alaska’s richest resource—and sharpen skills for pub trivia, as a bonus.

True or False: All of Alaska’s oil and gas resources are located near the northern coast of Alaska, often referred to as the North Slope.
False
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Upper Tanana Bonanza
The glitter of Manh Choh gold
By Isaac Stone Simonelli
T

etlin Lake in Alaska’s eastern interior is situated in the Tetlin Passage, a corridor through the upper Tanana River valley where the Alaska Range and Wrangell Mountains create a funnel for migratory birds. Tetlin Lake also feeds the Tetlin River, a short tributary of the Tanana. Both are named for the Athabascan village of Tetlin, located along the riverbank within hiking distance of both the Tanana and the lake.

The Upper Tanana Athabascan language gives the lake a different name: Manh Choh, which simply means “big lake.”

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Winners Advertise with the Best
By Janis J. Plume, Senior Account Manager

Summer in Alaska is a sacred time. Perhaps you’ll take the time to be out on the river fishing at your favorite spot, waving a stick at the fish. How can you ensure your business is still working for you when you’ve swapped your slacks for waders? One solid solution is to advertise in the popular Best of Alaska Business awards issue. Here are four great reasons to run an ad in July’s Alaska Business magazine:

Stay Visible During Summer: Winning businesses stay visible all year long—they don’t take the summer off. Keep your business top-of-mind (maybe your competitor is snoozing in a hammock, but you shouldn’t be!).

July’s Magazine is a Reader Favorite: Readers want to know who the Best of Alaska Business winners are since our readers voted for them. July’s magazine is now one of our most popular issues, and this year we’ll honor more than 100 winners in thirty-plus categories.

Construction
Building Up North
Capital improvements in the North Slope Borough
By Vanessa Orr
Wayde Carroll
Building Up North
Capital improvements in the North Slope Borough
By Vanessa Orr
N

orth Slope Borough communities were supposed to be well into a six-year program of capital improvements by now. The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the timeline, but the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is revving it back up.

In 2020, the North Slope Borough approved a capital plan through 2025 with a special focus on construction projects in eight Arctic communities.

“We prioritize our projects based on life, health, and safety issues—things that will make our residents’ lives better,” says Bernadette Adams, director of the borough’s Capital Improvement Program Management. “These include things like providing water and sewer to homes or creating eight- or ten-plexes to help ease the housing crisis. Our goal is to undertake projects that will have a good impact in these communities.”

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An aerial, landscape photograph view of The Totchaket Agricultural Project on state land near Nenana, Alaska
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The Totchaket Agricultural Project on state land near Nenana is going forward. The state Division of Agriculture expects to hold land sales around midsummer on 30,000 acres of the 140,000-acre project, with tracts ranging from 5 to 5,000 acres but mostly around 40. A new bridge across the Nenana River made the area accessible, and Doyon, Limited built a road, initially for oil and gas exploration. Unlike previous state-led agricultural projects at Delta and Point Mackenzie, Division Director David Schade says landowners will have more flexibility to define “agricultural use,” with no rigid timelines for development.
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Economic Indicators

ANS Crude Oil Production

501,379 barrels
3.4% change from previous month

3/30/22
Source: Alaska Department of Natural Resources

ANS West Coast Crude Oil Prices

$105 per barrel
7.2% change from previous month

3/31/22
Source: Alaska Department of Natural Resources
Statewide Employment

361,800 Labor Force
5.4% Unemployment

2/1/22. Adjusted seasonally.
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Right Moves
Altman, Rogers & Co.
A photograph of Heather Savery grinning (Chief Operating Officer at Altman, Rogers & Co.)
Savery

Alaska’s largest locally owned accounting firm promoted Heather Savery to the role of Chief Operating Officer. In this position, Savery works with the leadership team of Altman, Rogers & Co. on strategy and execution with a focus on the firm’s employee engagement and support initiatives. Savery previously served as the firm’s administrator, overseeing finance, administration, and public relations. She also held accounting leadership roles in the areas of aviation, nonprofits, and government contracting.

Alaska Trends

G

asoline prices fluctuate in direct response to the price of the crude oil it’s made from. Oh boy, do they fluctuate. Not so, however, the employment of workers who supply those fossil fuels. Not in Alaska, at least. The number of oil industry jobs has declined fairly steadily since the 2014 oil price crash, even though prices themselves have gone up, then down, then up again.

The oil and gas industry remains the primary economic activity of Alaska, no question about it. No question, too, that the industry looks much different today than it did just seven years ago, with half as many workers on the payroll.

Production has not shrunk by half, though. The volume of crude in the Trans Alaska Pipeline System is down, yes, but the decrease is closer to 8 percent than 50.

At a Glance

What book is currently on your nightstand?
Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman [as an audiobook].

What charity or cause are you passionate about?
Anchorage South Rotary Club.

What’s the first thing you do when you get home after a long day at work?
Kiss my wife and kids. Figure out what’s for dinner. Try to get off my computer. Not always super successful because a lot of times our auctions close in the evenings, so I have to process invoices.

What vacation spot is on your bucket list?
Australia.

If you could domesticate a wild animal, what animal would it be?
A cheetah would be pretty cool ‘cause they’re so fast, and an auctioneer is known for their speed, at least in voice.

Dan Newman Posing

At a Glance

What book is currently on your nightstand?
Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman [as an audiobook].

What charity or cause are you passionate about?
Anchorage South Rotary Club.

What’s the first thing you do when you get home after a long day at work?
Kiss my wife and kids. Figure out what’s for dinner. Try to get off my computer. Not always super successful because a lot of times our auctions close in the evenings, so I have to process invoices.

What vacation spot is on your bucket list?
Australia.

If you could domesticate a wild animal, what animal would it be?
A cheetah would be pretty cool ‘cause they’re so fast, and an auctioneer is known for their speed, at least in voice.

© Jeremy Cubas

Off the Cuff

Dan Newman
T

he new refrigerator for employees at Alaska Premier Auctions and Appraisals has a video screen on the door. That’s not just because co-owners Dan Newman and Nick Cline like to pamper their staff; the fridge door becomes one more place to display security monitors watching the eclectic stock of merchandise.

Newman spent a decade in marketing and sales for KTUU Channel 2, and he says those skills transfer to auctions. He used to deal with mattress stores one day, then cars the next. Now he deals in taxidermy, liquor, firearms, furniture, paintings, knickknacks, and office surplus—none with set prices. A “salesman through and through,” Newman decided to monetize his motormouth by training at Missouri Auction School, specializing in charity benefits. He opened the auction house in 2018 and is its principal auctioneer.

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The Largest and Most Diverse Equipment Fleet Across Alaska.
Anchorage
907.522.6466

The Rental Zone
907.474.2000

Delta Junction
907.895.9898

Fairbanks
907.456.2000

Prudhoe Bay
907.659.2000

Kenai
907.335.5466

Barge service to the North Slope Villages

Alaska Marine Lines is providing scheduled barge service to the North Slope Villages of Point Hope, Point Lay, Wainwright, Utqiagvik (Barrow), Prudhoe Bay and Kaktovik.

The stops are in addition to Alaska Marine Lines’ many other service locations including the major hubs of Naknek, Dillingham, Nome, Bethel and Kotzebue, and more than 65 villages along the coast of Western Alaska.

map illustrating Alaska Marine Lines shipping routes and locations

Barge service to the North Slope Villages

Alaska Marine Lines is providing scheduled barge service to the North Slope Villages of Point Hope, Point Lay, Wainwright, Utqiagvik (Barrow), Prudhoe Bay and Kaktovik.

The stops are in addition to Alaska Marine Lines’ many other service locations including the major hubs of Naknek, Dillingham, Nome, Bethel and Kotzebue, and more than 65 villages along the coast of Western Alaska.

map illustrating Alaska Marine Lines shipping routes and locations
Lynden Alaska Marine Lines logo

For additional information and schedules please visit www.shipaml.com, email [email protected], or call 1-800-426-3113.

Alaska Business logo
Thanks for reading our May 2022 issue!