WASHINGTON — The Alaska Railroad (ARRC) and Alaska Railbelt Marine are the winners of its prestigious Win-Win Award, Argus Media Inc. announced.
The annual award is given to railroads, shippers and transportation companies which develop innovative partnerships leading to better service, better rates and other, mutually beneficial, service improvements.
Launched in 1998 by Argus Rail Business, the annual award celebrates partnerships between rail carriers and customers which result in significant cost or service benefits. The latest award recognizes how the railroad and barge company preserved and revived freight deliveries to Whittier, Alaska, for several customers.
“We are honored to receive the Argus Rail Business Win-Win Award,” said ARRC Assistant Vice-president Patrick Flynn. “It recognizes a unique and mutually beneficial relationship between the Alaska Railroad and Alaska Railbelt Marine, which has paid dividends both for the companies involved and the customers we serve.”
“We’re excited to receive this award and even more excited how our partnership with the Alaska Railroad has blossomed,” agreed Alaska Railbelt Marine President Mike Halko.
Alaska Railroad has offered rail-barge service between Whittier and the Lower 48 states since 1962, bolstered by development of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System in the 1970s.
By the 1990s, a changing marketplace and maturing oil industry reduced demand for freight traffic, while growing steamship service offered another competitive option for customers. Alaska Railroad considered terminating its barge service.
Barge shipment offered one of the most economical ways to transport railroad rolling stock to Alaska, so the shortline railroad tried to preserve the service. The carrier focused on building up freight shipments of commodities that made the most economic sense to move by rail.
The shortline teamed up with the newly created Alaska Railbelt Marine to work on redeveloping the rail-barge business. The two companies designed and constructed three new barges to handle the rail traffic it hoped to move back onto the water. Each barge, which has eight separate rail tracks, can hold up to 50 railcars.
The new barges allowed the two companies to offer regular service out of Seattle. Barges now leave the city every Wednesday, which has created consistency in what was a haphazard schedule. That consistency, combined with newer barges, also helped reduce transit turn times from roughly 20 days to 17 days. The barge company’s ability to use Whittier, rather than Anchorage, as its Northern terminus also saves two days sailing time and cuts fuel costs.
The rail-barge operation has added a new option for customers who would otherwise have used faster but more expensive steamship service. In particular, the service has been attractive to companies moving heavier, hard-to-handle loads.
As business has grown, Alaska Railbelt Marine has expanded the service by adding overhead racks designed to hold containers above the railcars, increasing the company’s overall transport capacity.
To accommodate the wide range of customers depending upon consistent service Alaska Railbelt Marine recently launched a fourth barge to be available for back up during dry docking and periods of heavy traffic.
Argus Media is a leading provider of price assessments, business intelligence and market data on the global oil, gas, electricity, coal, emissions and transportation industries. Headquartered in London, Argus is the largest independent energy publisher in the world. Argus also has offices in Houston, Washington, Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow and in other key centers of the energy industry.
Argus was founded in 1970, and is a privately held UK-registered publishing company.