After two-year absence, cruise ships return to Kodiak with six stops this season

KODIAK -- Cruise ships will make half a dozen stops in Kodiak this summer after a two-year absence.Several tour vessels will stop in Kodiak, allowing their passengers eight- to 12-hour layovers.The S.S. Universe Explorer will make three stops, according to Pam Foreman of the Kodiak Island Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Universe Explorer is part of World Explorer Cruises, which plans to bring up to 700 passengers per visit.The Spirit of Oceanus will make one stop in Kodiak, bringing perhaps 100 passengers. That ship will be on a "repositioning" cruise from the Far East, returning to Southeast Alaska for the winter months.The M/V Clipper Odyssey, with 120 passengers, is conducting the "1899 Harriman Expedition Retraced," sponsored by the Alumnae Association and Clark Science Center of Smith College. This ship is scheduled to arrive Aug. 6.The Regal Princess of Princess Cruise Lines will be the largest ship to call on Kodiak. Scheduled to arrive Sept. 29, the ship will carry up to 1,600 passengers and a crew of 800. That ship also will be on a repositioning cruise, returning to Russia and the Far East from Southeast Alaska.

Knowles pushes pipeline to oil, gas commission

ANCHORAGE -- Gov. Tony Knowles told members of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission that the time is right to develop Alaska’s natural gas resources and build a gas pipeline to the Lower 48.Alaska’s natural gas would go a long way toward satisfying the county’s energy needs in coming decades, Knowles told a gathering May 14 of representatives from oil- and gas-producing states."What we have been waiting on is commercial viability. I think it is here," said Knowles, the commission’s current chairman.Building a 1,800-mile gas pipeline along the Alaska Highway into Canada and on to the Lower 48 would create thousands of jobs, he said."It will be a great shot in the arm of the economy," Knowles said.America will continue to remain dependent on fossil fuels for several decades before it transitions to renewable forms of energy, Knowles said. In the meantime, North Slope resources could provide an energy bridge.The North Slope has 35 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas and experts believe there is a further 65 trillion cubic feet yet to be discovered, Knowles said.The governor noted that the country is facing an energy crisis. At the same time the atmosphere in Washington has shifted with the Bush administration toward one more in line with IOGCC goals, Knowles said.

Hickel Investment reopens, remodels, runs Eagle River cinema

The building owner of Valley River Cinemas has reopened the six-screen theater after another operator closed its doors 10 months ago. Hickel Investment Co. is operating it as an independent theater in Eagle River through a subsidiary, Alaska Cinemas Inc. Last year Regal Cinemas Inc. shuttered the Eagle River movie house. Screens were lit beginning May 12 with first-run movies, company officials said. Adult tickets cost $7.75 or $4.75 for bargain price, said theater general manager Lee Michaelson. Besides Michaelson, the company employs two full-time and 19 part-time employees, although staff totals will fluctuate, he said. The new operator remodeled the theater, moving the concession area from the middle of the lobby to the side for a cafeteria style concession stand. Other alterations include new carpet, remodeled ceiling and neon light accents, he said. Hickel Investment Co. also upgraded the theater’s projection and sound system, Michaelson said. The new system features the Digital Theater System and digital CD quality sound. Despite a tight deadline, renovations were mostly complete for the soft opening, company officials said. "The theater was 95 percent finished and operational when the doors opened (May 12)," said Joe Babka, Hickel Investment Co. real estate manager. Michaelson has been working for the past several months with national consultants and film buyers Trans Lux Cinema Consulting, who distribute movies. The movie house operator held a grand opening May 19 billed as a Hollywood-style awards event.  

Lawyers claim breach of contract over Infinite Minutes change

Two Anchorage lawyers have filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of subscribers to Alaska Communications Systems Inc.’s Infinite Minutes long-distance calling plan.Filed by the Law Office of Paul Adelman and Ingaldson Maasen, the suit is pending before state Superior Court.The suit makes claims for breach of contract, violations of the Alaska Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act among other claims, according to a statement from Adelman.According to the lawyers, the suit alleges that ACS violated the terms of the Infinite Minutes plan when it imposed a 600-minute per month cap that took affect April 27.The suit also contends "that ACS didn’t intend to offer unlimited calling under the plan and knew or should have known that the plan wasn’t financially viable."Also, lawyers said the suit charges that ACS concealed material and relevant information abut the plan from subscribers.Tom Jensen, ACS public affairs director, said the suit lacks merit."It’s the type of thing where they’re looking for a deep pockets company whereby several attorneys can make some pretty good money for themselves while they claim they represent the little guy," he said.He described the Infinite Minutes program as an innovative marketing program ACS dispatched to compete in the Anchorage market. "Unfortunately, after several months it proved that it was unprofitable for various reasons, and ACS modified the program," Jensen said.According to Jensen, ACS contacted its 30,000 Infinite Minutes customers and 90 percent of them chose to remain ACS customers participating in a replacement calling plan.

Phillips, BP discover new Kuparuk satellite field, to begin production in 2003

ANCHORAGE -- Phillips Alaska Inc. and BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. have announced the discovery of a new oil field west of the Kuparuk field.The Palm discovery is estimated to contain 35 million barrels of recoverable reserves."It’s small next to the big numbers, but it’s a very nice facility," said Mike Richter, vice president of exploration and land development for Phillips Alaska on May 18.Kuparuk, which began production in 1981, is the second-largest field on the North Slope. It began with estimated recoverable reserves of 2.8 billion barrels of oil. About 1.8 billion barrels have been drawn from Kuparuk so far.The Palm No. 1 well, about three miles west of the Kuparuk field, tested at a rate of 2,500 barrels of oil per day. The discovery will help extend the life of Kuparuk, Richter said."This is another example of successful satellite drilling in the Kuparuk area," he said.Last year, Phillips and BP announced the discovery of the Meltwater field, also near Kuparuk. Meltwater is estimated to contain about 50 million barrels of recoverable reserves and is expected to begin production by the end of the year.Production from the Palm discovery is expected to begin in 2003, Richter said.Phillips expects the Palm field will help the company keep its Alaska production at 375,000 to 400,000 barrels of oil per day for the next several years.Phillips Alaska, which operates the Kuparuk field, holds a 55 percent interest. BP Exploration holds 39 percent. Unocal, ExxonMobil and Chevron each hold minor interests.

Willis publisher of Kodiak paper

KODIAK -- The daughter of the former owners of the Kodiak Daily Mirror has been named its new publisher.Amy Willis, who has worked at various times for the paper since high school, when her parents owned the company, was named publisher in mid-May.Willis had been interim publisher since September.Willis moved to Kodiak with her parents, Duane and Nancy Freeman, in 1972. They purchased the Kodiak Daily Mirror in 1982 and owned the paper until it was sold to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in 1998.Willis earned an associates degree from Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Wash., in 1988, and a journalism degree with an advertising emphasis from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1992.

American Marine adding big hyperbaric chamber

One company with an Anchorage office expects arrival this summer of a new, larger hyperbaric chamber. The treatment, once used chiefly for diving or high-altitude emergencies, now is prescribed to treat other ailments. American Marine Corp. has ordered a new 16-person hyperbaric chamber that is due to arrive in Anchorage this summer, said Jim Thompson, supervisor of hyperbarics. The company already operates two six-person chambers, he said. Thompson said he is looking for property near Providence Alaska Medical Center to house the new unit, which he hopes to begin operating later this year. He did not list the cost for the new unit. Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage also operates a hyperbaric unit. The unit, in the Comprehensive Wound Healing Center, features two single-place chambers, said Registered Nurse Laurel Christians, program director for the center. Alaska Regional operates the only hospital-based hyperbaric program in Alaska, Christians said. The hospital installed and began operating its hyperbaric chambers in late 1999 as part of the wound healing center, she said. Her experience in home health care revealed a need for such treatments, which some people traveled outside Alaska to get, she said. For example, an elderly patient with chronic wounds or those wounds not showing signs of healing could be treated at the wound center, she said. Wounds fall in five major categories: wounds related to diabetes; venous ulcers; arterial ulcers or wounds; pressure ulcers and miscellaneous wounds that could include surgical wounds slow to heal, she said. "Hyperbarics is one of the modalities we use to heal a wound up," Christians said. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides 100 percent pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber, unlike the 21 percent oxygen in the air people usually breathe. The therapy increases the amount of oxygen delivered to body tissues by blood. Treatments usually last two hours, she said. The hyperbaric facility at Alaska Regional typically treats five people daily, she said. The treatment requires a prescription from a physician trained in hyperbaric treatment, she said. The wound healing center differs from others in that staff provide a complete evaluation of the patient and work with different departments at the hospital, she said. Most insurers cover 12 hyperbaric treatments approved by Medicare, she said. The approved conditions are air or gas embolism; carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation; gas gangrene; crush injuries; decompression sickness; certain soft tissue infections; enhancement of healing in selected problem wounds; exceptional blood loss anemia; osteomyelitis; radiation tissue damage; compromised skin grafts; and thermal burns. Alaska Regional does not use hyperbaric as a treatment for stroke or for cosmetic purposes, she said. American Marine, a commercial dive service company based in Hawaii, also has offices in California and Alaska. The company has been operating its Anchorage hyperbaric unit for nine years, Thompson said. "When we first started out we were not open to the public but just handled emergencies," he said. Last year American Marine began using its hyperbaric chambers to treat afflictions besides decompression sickness and other emergencies, he said. According to Thompson, the company decided to make the change because the American Medical Association approved treatment protocols for several conditions to be treated by hyperbarics. American Marine has ordered a new chamber with an eye to the future, he said. "It’s a rapidly growing industry, and people are looking for an alternative treatment from pharmaceuticals and alternative drugs," Thompson said. The company treats stroke patients although the AMA has not approved protocols yet, he said. In Alaska American Marine does not perform hyperbaric treatments for cosmetic or anti-aging therapy, he said. American Marine uses hyperbaric treatments for conditions not covered by insurance companies, he said. These conditions can include halting osteoporosis, treating symptoms of multiple sclerosis and hepatitis C among others, he said. Treatment costs can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, he said. American Marine employs 20 certified hyperbaric technologists, and Thompson, who is also certified, is an instructor who trains others at the Anchorage facility.

Halibut to tell scientists their secrets when first tags transmit data in mid-June

Defining "critical habitat" is a complex task these days, as fishery managers are required to take an entire marine ecosystem into account when making management decisions. Next month, information from tagged halibut could bring researchers increased understanding, at least for the big flats in the Gulf of Alaska. As part of a project to assess critical marine habitat in the gulf, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Biological Science Center is conducting an experiment on halibut using satellite pop-up tags. The $77,000 project, funded by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, began last fall when 10 large halibut were captured in Resurrection Bay and taken to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, where the special tags were attached. The 3-inch, cigar-shaped tags, attached to the halibuts’ backs by a tungsten wire, resemble fishing lures. But that’s where any resemblance stops. Inside the tags are digital memory cards, along with sensors that can record water pressure, light and temperature for up to three years. In this case, however, the devices on five of the halibut are programmed to corrode their tungsten wires with acid on June 15 and float to the surface, where they will begin transmitting their stored information to passing satellites. The remainder of the tags are scheduled to detach from the fish in mid-November. According to project director Jennifer Nielson, researchers will then use the information to figure out where the halibut have been swimming all winter. The tags have been used on tuna and marlin nearer the equator, but this is the first test ever conducted so far north. The data that the tags yield will tell something about halibut behavior, especially their migratory patterns. If the prototype project proves to be successful, the satellite tags will eventually be applied to other fish species like ling cod and king salmon. Free streamers Longliners can take advantage of free streamer lines, thanks to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s goal of helping fishermen avoid accidental takes of seabirds. While supplies last, paired streamer lines are available for free in Seward at Resurrection Bay Seafoods and Seward Fisheries, the Auction Block in Homer, Kodiak Marine Supply, the Department of Fish and Game in Sitka and from the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association. On a related note, the Washington Sea Grant Program is preparing research results from a two-year study evaluating the effectiveness of seabird avoidance measures, as well as recommendations for changes to the current seabird regulations. The presentation will be made to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council at its October 2001 meeting, according to Jim Balsiger, director of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Alaska. Help stop hoaxes Eleven search and rescue hoaxes in Alaska last year cost taxpayers an estimated $134,500, or an average of $12,300 per episode. That was part of an estimated $18 million in false alarms nationwide. The Coast Guard takes every mayday call seriously, and hoaxes could cause some devastating problems if a real emergency were occurring elsewhere. To try to stem the tide of prank calls, the Coast Guard is urging coastal states to pass their own laws to supplement federal rules that punish prank callers. Such legislation is pending in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In New Jersey, creating "false public alarms" is illegal and punishable by up to five years in prison. The Coast Guard says Connecticut has penalties for maritime hoaxers, and Ohio also makes such calls illegal. "The situation is getting worse," said Commander Jim McPherson, a Coast Guard spokesman stationed in Washington, D.C. "It’s for the same reason people pull fire alarms and make false 911 calls," he said, but instead of trucks, "we send out jets and boats." The Coast Guard investigates an average of four suspected hoaxes a day nationally, with summer the busiest season. According to Sue Jorgensen, Alaska Fishing Vessel Safety Coordinator, very few of the pranksters are caught and even fewer are punished. The biggest problem is that many prank calls are done by juveniles, and such cases are rarely prosecuted in federal court. For example, New England’s top Coast Guard official cited a case on Cape Cod last April. "Two youths, ages 14-15, made a 45-minute hoax call costing taxpayers $14,500," said Rear Admiral George Naccara. Despite having signed confessions, the Coast Guard’s enforcement options were limited by the lack of a state law, he said. The hoaxers were given community service. About three in 10 distress calls in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are hoaxes, according to the Coast Guard. Without state penalties, it’s often hard for the Coast Guard to even threaten punishment.

Alliance's polar flights threaten airport

An alliance between Canada and Russia to open polar routes between Asia and North America that bypass Alaska may be a threat to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, according to state international airport authorities. A recent study by NAV Canada and the Federal Aviation Authority of Russia, or FAAR, shows that the less circuitous route could cut flight times by two hours or more and save the airlines money. "We can’t afford to ignore the development of these routes," said Mort Plumb, airport director. "Payload vs. range will always be a factor in our favor, but to ensure our future we need further liberalization of cargo transfer rights. "Currently any cargo transferred here on any manifest that requires a change of planes from one manifest to another is considered a break in the flight and not allowed," added Plumb. He believes that the polar routes will become the wave of the future for express package services, and perhaps passenger flights, but doubts that cargo carriers will use the routes unless they can find a savings of an additional flight frequency in the deal. Plumb said that the U.S. Department of Transportation will not relax the cargo rules unless it becomes law through legislation, and the Alaska delegation is working to pass a definition into law this congressional session. "Things like these polar routes are starting to pop up on the radar screen," Plumb said. "We need to move toward a more Open Skies type global agreement that will allow more freedom to operate." Recently several passenger airlines, including Northwest Airlines and United Airlines, have experimented with using polar routes from the Midwest to Japan. "I doubt that the polar routes will ever really be that popular with the cargo carriers," said Northwest Cargo copilot Jeff Banks. "When you consider that a Boeing 747-200 freighter can carry 300,000 pounds and that to make those distances you would still have to cut out 100,000 pounds for fuel to make the range, it doesn’t add up. Carrying the extra fuel would cost more than you could make up in a 1 1/2 hour stop." Other considerations include the added costs of flying in foreign airspace, alternate airports in case of emergency and communication and navigation. "We tried flying in Russian airspace and have a route for passenger flights that do overfly Anchorage, but it was only used to make up time. The added cost of airspace fees for navigation and communication added more to the cost of the flights," Banks said. The polar routes outlined by NAV Canada and FAAR still have pilots and operations experts scratching their heads over logistics. "Sure you can save time and money on fuel, but there are few alternate airports once you are over the Polar ice cap," Banks reflected. "Not to mention that if you are flying passengers and you have a sick or rowdy passenger, you may have to turn around or land at an alternate. "Cargo carriers fly quietly in the dark of the night with no fuss on that front, and we have four engines," Banks added. "Most of the new long range aircraft used for passenger flights like the Boeing 777 and the Airbus are twin engine aircraft. You lose one of those and where are you going to land?" To prove that it works, NAV Canada and FAAR will invest $55 million over the next five years on navigation and communications to upgrade the new routes, initially called Polar Two and COA 99. They reach within 64 nautical miles of the North Pole. Thirty-three routes in all have been studied, according to NAV Canada officials. NAV Canada is a private, nonshare capital corporation with operations coast to coast in Canada providing air traffic control, flight information, weather briefings, airport advisory services and electronic aids to navigation. NAV Canada plans to pay its share of $7 million out of its regular capital budget as an investment in the project. NAV Canada and FAAR plan to recoup their investment by charging airlines that pass through Canadian and Russian airspace. Currently a Russian flagged carrier from Krasnoyarsk called KrasAir is using the polar route for flights, and Canadian carrier Air Canada is considering using the routes for flights from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul and Taipei, according to Sid Koslow, vice president of engineering for NAV Canada. With letters of support from carriers like Northwest Airlines and JAL, and added support from newly befriended Chinese carriers Dragon Air, Air China and China Eastern, Plumb hopes that Alaskans will be able to convince DOT officials to drop what he refers to as "arcane restrictions" and give foreign carriers new added liberties with their cargo in Anchorage. "We need to have a value-added scenario for carriers to use our location," Plumb said. "We have to step up to the plate now, before other airports worldwide offer these liberalizations, or shorter routes that add up to higher utilization of their aircraft. "We need to be free to operate," Plumb said. "The U.S. is always the best at competing in a fair market environment."  

Credit union opens mortgage company

Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union of Anchorage opened its own mortgage company earlier this month. The credit union entered the residential lending market through its purchase of Northern Pacific Mortgage of Anchorage."The purchase supports our strategic goal to expand our products and services to members and the communities we serve," said Robert Teachworth, Denali Alaskan president and chief executive, in a statement.Northern Pacific was established in Alaska in 1992 as Washington Home Mortgage before changing its name to Northern Pacific in 1996. Vern Rush purchased the company in February 2000.The new company, Denali Alaskan Mortgage Co., began operating May 1. The credit union purchased Northern Pacific last fall and had been operating it under that name until receiving federal regulatory approval, said credit union spokesman Keith Fernandez.The new company has six employees, most from Northern Pacific, said Lee Van Horn, assistant vice president of real estate lending.The purchase of Northern Pacific Mortgage allows Denali Alaskan to offer conventional investor-backed mortgage products -- like Veterans Affairs or Federal Housing Administration loans -- which it did not previously offer. The credit union’s existing real estate department will continue to offer home equity lines of credit, home improvement loans, construction loans and other real estate products.The new mortgage firm will relocate from South Anchorage to 510 E. Tudor Road in early June.Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union has more than 32,000 members and offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. The credit union’s assets total more than $200 million.

Two hospitals in second year of upgrade work

Major construction projects at Alaska’s two largest hospitals continue this summer, with some phases finishing soon.Renovations began last year at 254-bed Alaska Regional Hospital on a $26 million project, and a $30 million upgrade began at Providence Alaska Medical Center, with 341 beds. Officials from the Anchorage facilities expect to complete phases of the projects next month.The two projects are slated for completion in 2002.Alaska Native Medical Center also plans construction this summer. NBBJ of Seattle, architects of that facility, which was completed in 1997, have studied future changes, hospital facility engineer Robert Wilson said at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce luncheon April 23. Within the next 10 years the cost to implement the upgrades could be at least $14.6 million, he said.Work this year should include remodeling the day surgery department, preparing an eighth operating room for service, renovating the lab and upgrading Quyana House, a 59-bed hostel, Wilson said. He told Chamber members that designs were nearly complete and a contractor had been chosen for the project, which could be finished in October.The expansions are necessary to meet the growing need for health care services in Alaska, hospital officials told the luncheon audience."We’ve certainly seen an increase in volumes as the state continues to grow," said Ed Lamb, Alaska Regional president and chief executive.Providence in Alaska provides services for about 150,000 people annually from its nine locations, including facilities in Seward and Kodiak, said Gene O’Hara, Providence Alaska Medical Center chief executive. In Alaska the company employs about 3,200 people and projects net revenue of $350 million for 2001, he said.Alaska Regional Hospital broke ground in September on renovations to its Anchorage facility. Work includes relocating the current lobby to the opposite side of the building. The new three-story atrium lobby will feature glass elevators, a new patient admitting area plus added parking outside the area.Other upgrades will include more operating rooms, expanding and adding equipment to the radiology department and adding larger rooms in labor and delivery."Work is almost complete on the first phases of Alaska Regional’s construction," said Kjerstin Lastufka, director of marketing and public relations. "The new lobby and front entrance -- currently the entrance to radiation therapy -- will be complete in June," she said.The new entrance will help accommodate an increasing number of front-door patients resulting from medical advancements that allow for more outpatient services, she said.Renovations to the labor and delivery area should be done in June, she noted. Work expands the department plus provides a new antepartum room, tub room, counseling rooms, waiting area and staff break room, Lastufka said.Phase two of Alaska Regional’s major construction project begins this summer."Remodeling the inside of the hospital begins in July and will take about a year to complete," she said. Hospital officials plan major renovations to surgery, radiology, registration, the lobby, the gift shop, the doctors’ dining area and classrooms, she said.Providence also aims to finish and begin operating parts of its expansion starting in June."On June 19 we move in and go live with our new (emergency room) department," said assistant administrator Vince Huntington.Next, construction will renovate the former emergency room space for an expanded surgery space, adding 11,000 square feet for surgery support, he said. Three new operating rooms should be completed by August and added to the existing three operating rooms in day surgery, he said. The surgery expansion is due to continue through April or May 2002 and represents the last phase of the multiyear project, he said.The construction project at Providence set out to expand the emergency and day surgery departments and add two floors of medical office space. Work began in March 2000.The project adds 100,000 square feet to the emergency and day surgery departments. Work also expands the recovery area.Included in this part of the project is expanding the entry and lobby areas to provide a new public gallery for community events hosted by the hospital.The gallery, or public circulation corridor, featuring granite-tile floors, a fireplace and high ceilings, should be open July 1, Huntington said. However, the area will serve other purposes until construction is completed in other areas, he said.Providence officials plan to remodel the 20-year-old cafeteria this summer, and the public circulation corridor will temporarily accommodate diners during construction, Huntington said. Some summer outdoor barbecues also are planned during the project.Construction around the cafeteria provides an opportunity for the roughly $600,000 cafeteria upgrade, he said. Although the kitchens will remain unchanged, work will remodel the cafeteria by adding private booths, a specialty coffee shop and an updated serving line, he said.

This Week in Alaska Business History May 20, 2001

Editor’s note: "This Week in Alaska Business History" revisits events that shaped our past."Those who cannotremember the past arecondemned to repeat it."-- George Santayana, 1863-195220 years ago this weekAnchorage TimesMay 21, 1981Valdez refinery plans fall throughFinancing problems blamedThe Associated Pressand Times staffJUNEAU -- Alaska Oil Co. informed state officials today it has scrapped plans to build a 100,000 barrel-per-day oil refinery at Valdez because financing cannot be obtained.The announcement, which many lawmakers and state officials had been expecting, means the state will have an extra 75,000 barrels per day of royalty oil to sell as soon as new contractors can be arranged.However, state Commissioner of Natural Resources Bob LeResche said selling the oil may not be easy because of a world oil glut and a buyer’s market for oil.Valdez officials express disappointment this morning when learning of Alaska Oil’s plans."Initially we were disappointed that the project cannot be built. But we understand the situation that Alaska Oil finds itself in with the current glut on the oil market," said Valdez Mayor Stephen McApline.Anchorage TimesMay 21, 1981Crab quota upsets Japan’s ambassadorBy Patti EplerTimes WriterAction by the Regional Fishery Management Council calling for a zero quota on tanner crabs for Japanese fishermen is a disappointment to the Japanese people, Japan’s ambassador to the United States says."It may be difficult, I realize," said Yoshio Okawara, "for Americans to understand how important the Alaska fisheries are to the predominantly fish diet of the Japanese people."Okawara said about 12 percent of the total Japanese catch is gathered in Alaska waters, making a substantial part of the Japanese food source dependent on Alaska fisheries.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceMay 20, 1991Prudhoe Bay’s last hurrahBy Ray TysonFor the Alaska Journal of CommerceNorth Slope oil production is on the decline for the second time and may never again exceed daily output of 2 million barrels, in spite of more field projects of the kind that helped to boost production after the supergiant Prudhoe Bay field lapsed into its initial decline three years ago."Prudhoe Bay’s last hurrah was in the third week of November," said Dudley Platt, a petroleum economist for the Alaska Department of Revenue.Alaska daily oil production has averaged 1.845 million barrels during the current fiscal year, exceeding the 2 million barrel mark only 46 times since last year after the GHX-1 gas-handling project came on line at Prudhoe Bay, North America’s largest oil field.Platt said North Slope oil production hit its most recent peak of 2.1 million barrels a day about Nov. 21.Alaska Journal of CommerceMay 20, 1991Alascom to cut serviceAlascom wants to stop providing international and interstate telex and telegram service, and it wants to discontinue its Medium Frequency marine radio service in several coastal locations.The reason, says spokesman Tom Jensen, is declining demand for the services.In case of MF service, "In 1991 we expect that message traffic will be even less than in 1990 when we carried only 252 messages during the entire year. With the expansion and improvement of VHF radio-telephone service for coastal operations, MF service has become an increasingly underutilized and unprofitable service."Jensen said the development of Alascom’s rural earth station telephone network across Alaska has reduced MF use to near zero. "People now can simply pick up the phone and call anywhere," he said.The telex and telegram services have also been left in the dust technologically, Jensen said.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Insurance claims bill passes

Several bills of interest to the business community passed the Legislature in the closing days of the 2001 session, which ended May 8. House Bill 113, requiring health insurers to pay claims within 30 days or pay interest, was given final approval on May 7, as was House Bill 184, a comprehensive, largely technical rewrite of state insurance laws. House Bill 121, clarifying laws relating to charitable gift annuities, was given final approval on May 8. One business-related bill that did not pass in the final two days of the session was Senate Bill 176, relating to wholesale distributorships. The bill, introduced late in the session, attempts to prevent coercive activity by distributors against retailers and had passed the Senate and the House Labor and Commerce and Judiciary committees. SB 176 was pulled back to the House Rules Committee on May 7, after some business groups voiced concerns that it went too far in interfering in contractual relationships between distributors and retailers. The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, chaired by Sen. Randy Phillips, R-Eagle River, had introduced the bill. A bill setting out missions and measures for state agencies, House Bill 250, also passed. This is a continuation of a recent practice of the Legislature in setting specific agency missions and quantifiable performance measures into law so lawmakers can judge the performance of an agency when setting budgets the following year. One controversial proposal that did not pass was an increase in state taxes on alcoholic beverages, pushed by Rep. Lisa Murkowski, R-Anchorage. The bill was stopped in the House Finance Committee by Rep. Bill Williams, R-Saxman, co-chairman of the committee. Another bill of interest to business that did not pass was House Bill 8, sponsored by Rep. Norm Rokeberg, R-Anchorage, which would set up a Legislative Road Development Task Force to make recommendations on needed new highways and road upgrades. Rokeberg and other lawmakers complained that the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities develops the state long-range surface transportation plan without consulting lawmakers. The bill passed the House and advanced through the Senate to the Senate Rules Committee. Rokeberg said he will continue work on the bill next year.  

Understand airfare logic

What is the secret to saving on airfares? You need to understand the basic rules on how airfares are filed and what airlines are trying to accomplish. It seems so radical for airfares to go up and down; however, it is very systematic if you know the rationale behind them.The goal of an airline is not to fill every single seat but to maximize "yield" on each flight. Here are some of the factors that affect your fares: Excess capacityWhen airlines have excess inventory to certain city pairs, you will see a drop in airfares. When advance-booking figures are weak, airlines will file special discounted fares to fill the seat with restrictions. Airlines nowadays are using the Internet as a vehicle to salvage excess capacity at the last minute for specific flights on specific dates. You need to be flexible in your travel plans to take advantage of these offers.CompetitionWhen one carrier files special fares for no reason, other airlines will match with a moment’s notice. It takes only one airline to start this domino effect. Unless the market is served by one airline, this is a daily occurrence. Restrictions may vary by each airline. We have multiple airlines serving Anchorage-Seattle market for red-eye service. It’s not the time of day that makes the fares low, but the competition that makes the fares low.MistakesDaily changes to airfares are countless. Through this process, you may run into a fare that is extremely low. We have seen fares so low that we cannot afford not to travel. When you see a fare like that, jump on it. It won’t be there tomorrow or even later that same day. More than likely, it was priced wrong. Once you book, confirm and purchase tickets, airlines will honor the fares.Advance purchaseWhen you cannot meet advance purchase requirements, chances are that you will be paying higher fares. When you have to go, you have to pay what is available. I have seen advance purchase requirements for three days, seven days, 14 days and 21 days. If you have less than seven days to book, expect much higher fares.But just because you have longer lead-time to book, it does not guarantee the best fare in the market. If you need to travel at the last minute for medical or bereavement reasons, airlines can offer "compassion" fares to assist families in need.Minimum stayThe key to saving airfare is advance purchase and Saturday night stay. Saturday night stay is one of the most powerful qualifiers in saving airfares. Do you know why? This requirement sifts business travelers from vacation travelers who are very price sensitive.I don’t know of many business travelers who want to spend a weekend in a hotel room. If you have a distant relative to visit, you may want to incorporate weekend stay if your corporate travel policy allows.Travel datesWhen you travel to international destinations, fares are categorized in the following manner in general.* High season summer and holiday peak travel* Shoulder season between peak and low season* Low season winter low season* Midweek travel Monday through Thursday* Weekend travel Friday, Saturday and SundayDon’t expect super low fares for weekend travel during the high season. High season is different from country to country.ChartersCharter fares are not necessarily the lowest. However, fares are generally attractive. Charter services are introduced in the market to meet the demand for travel to Alaska in the summer. Alaskans can take advantage of the schedule and fares as many charter operators offer fares from Alaska to fill the excess capacity.New marketWhenever a new market or new airline is introduced, you will see introductory fares. Airlines need to jump-start these new services. In Alaska, new services are introduced for the summer period. However, if the new service performs well for the airline, the seasonal service can potentially lead to a year-round service.ItineraryTo get the best airfare, consider a single destination trip. If you try to incorporate two or more cities to visit, the fares will go up substantially. Many airlines do offer a free stopover in their hub city, for example Northwest in Minneapolis, Delta in Salt Lake City, Alaska in Seattle, and so on. When you consider multiple destinations, know the airline’s route structure to take advantage of a free stopover provision.Through fares vs.point-to-pointNot all through fares are the lowest. What I mean is that airfares are filed from an originating city to your destination. Flying to a highly competitive city and adding another fare from that city to the final destination may get you a better combined fare. In the case of Southwest Airlines, they will not "interline" checked baggage, meaning you will have to retrieve and check in your baggage again at the connecting airport. If you are using multiple airlines, check to see if those airlines have "interline" agreement.Group and conference travelIn general, if you have more than 10 people traveling together, airlines will consider group airfares and/or relaxing of restrictions. Or, if you have more than 10 people traveling from multiple cities to a particular city for conferences or conventions, airlines will negotiate special discount for this type of travel.Yoshi Ogawa is president of ITC Travel & Tours. He can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Business Profile: Pacific Alaska Forwarders Inc.

Name of the company: Pacific Alaska Forwarders Inc. Established: Alaska service began in 1961 Location: 431 E. 104th Ave., Anchorage Telephone: 907-336-2567 Web site: www.pafak.com Major focus of services: Pacific Alaska Forwarders Inc. provides freight transportation via less than truckload or truckload services as well as intermodal transportation. History of the company: Founder Rex Sears started Alaska operations in 1961 and by the mid-1960s had leased warehouse space for the company. In the late 1960s Pacific Alaska Forwarders built its first warehouse in downtown Anchorage followed by construction of a warehouse in Fairbanks. In 1966 Joe Smith started with Pacific Alaska Forwarders, running it for Sears. By 1994 Smith’s son Alain Smith, who had operated Southern Alaska Forwarding Inc. of Kodiak, took the reins for Pacific Alaska Forwarders. In the late 1990s the Joe Smith purchased the company from Sears, and by the end of the decade Alain Smith had acquired Pacific Alaska Forwarders. The corporate headquarters is in Fife, Wash., with Alaska locations in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Soldotna. Pacific Alaska Forwarders has updated its facilities and fleet. In 1998 the company relocated its Washington office to a newly built facility in Fife. In 1999 Pacific Alaska Forwarders moved to a new location in Anchorage. This summer the company plans to build a new, larger facility in Fairbanks. "For the past three years we have been having double digit (revenue) growth," said Bill Meszaros, vice president of Alaska sales. The company employs between 40 to 50 people. Top accomplishment of the company: Meszaros is most pleased with Pacific Alaska Forwarders’ investment in new facilities and vehicles. Another landmark is the company’s addition of a new service, full load trucking service, which the company began in January, he said. Major player: Bill Meszaros, vice president of Alaska sales, Pacific Alaska Forwarders Inc. Meszaros moved to Alaska in 1970. He spent 11 years as cargo manager for MarkAir. He started work for Pacific Alaska Forwarders in 1994 as Anchorage terminal manager. He later was appointed director of Alaska operations with responsibility for Fairbanks and Soldotna facilities. He was next promoted to his current title. -- Nancy Pounds  

Sitka firm builds five ferries for N.Y. waters

A Sitka-based ship building company has built five new ferries for high-speed commuter use on New York City water routes.New York Waterway has some of the new boats in service on new routes, including the East River, New York Waterway President Arthur Imperatore Jr., announced in early May.In a unique trans-continental partnership, New York Waterway, the largest privately operated commuter ferry service in the United States, has taken delivery of four catamaran ferries from Allen Marine of Sitka and is expecting delivery of a fifth catamaran ferry in the next few weeks."We are proud that NY Waterway recognizes the quality of the work done by the men and women of Allen Marine," said David Allen, president of Allen Marine Inc. "In Sitka, we take safety and reliability very seriously."The new Sea Otter class ferries carry 97 passengers at speeds of more than 30 knots, about 35 mph. They are single-hull boats with three water jet engines and include the bow-loading feature unique to New York Waterway ferries, allowing safe, efficient passenger loading and unloading.The cost of the ferries is $1 million each, according to New York Waterway sources.New York Waterway ferries built by Allen Marine are shipped by ocean-going freighter specially built for shipping yachts and will transit through the Panama Canal to New York.

Sale of fiber-optic cable capacity puts GCI quarterly income figures in the black

General Communication Inc. posted first quarter net income totaling $2.4 million, compared with a net loss of $5.5 million for the same period last year.The Anchorage-based telecommunications provider attributes the net income to a sale of fiber-optic cable capacity that closed early in the quarter.Including the fiber capacity sale, GCI reports revenue for the quarter totaled $96.9 million. Revenue totals excluding the fiber sale reached $77.4 million for the first quarter, up from $68.3 million for first quarter 2000.The telecommunications company listed revenue growth in all lines with the largest gains in the long-distance services area.Excluding the effects of the sale of fiber capacity, long distance and related revenues for the first quarter of 2001 increased 10.2 percent to $50.8 million as compared with $46.1 million for the first quarter of 2000.Cable television revenues for the first quarter increased 13.2 percent to $18 million from $15.9 million in the first quarter of 2000.Local telephone service revenues for the first quarter increased 33.3 percent to $6 million compared with $4.5 million in the first quarter of 2000.GCI reports local telephone service added 3,000 access lines during the quarter, for a total of 65,000 access lines in service, representing a 33 percent market share in the Anchorage area.GCI’s statewide Internet platform now serves more than 65,000 customers, adding 2,000 new customers during first quarter. About 18,500 of these customers are using GCI’s cable modem service, more than double the amount using cable modems in first quarter last year. GCI now provides cable modem service in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Valdez.

Cruise lines tout economic impact, growth, environmental care

The cruise industry represents a significant economic impact to Anchorage and passenger numbers are expected to grow this year, one industry official said.In 2001 cruise passengers to Anchorage should climb 5 percent to 7 percent, said Al Parrish, vice president of government and community affairs for Holland America Line.Parrish spoke May 10 at the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau monthly membership luncheon at the Egan Civic & Convention Center. His speech came a handful of days after Gov. Tony Knowles called for a special legislative session on cruise ship emissions legislation.Parrish said the industry in Alaska continues to develop new technology to treat wastewater and has adopted new standards for discharging wastewater."As an industry we are proud to aggressively market Alaska and even more aggressively monitor ourselves so the pristine product remains a viable market," he said.The Alaska cruise market represents an annual 600,000-passenger business for several cruises lines serving the state, he said. About 300,000 of those passengers visit Anchorage, Parrish said, quoting a economic impact study released in February. Forty percent of cruise visitors to Anchorage continue on to see other parts of Alaska, typically via tour packages, he said.The McDowell Group of Juneau prepared the report for the North West Cruise- Ship Association. The report studied results from 1999.In 1999 the cruise industry spent $103 million in direct expenditures in Anchorage, the report showed. This figure includes purchase of goods and services, payroll for industry employees, cruise passenger air travel to and from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, government revenue and estimated spending by cruise passengers while in Anchorage.The McDowell Group estimates cruise passengers spent $100 per person in Anchorage in 1999 for an estimated total of $28 million.In 1999 the industry paid $2 million in local, state and federal government taxes and fees for services in Anchorage.Also part of direct spending in Anchorage, the industry spent $45 million for goods and services plus $21 million in activity at Anchorage International Airport.The North West CruiseShip Association represents nine cruise lines bringing 98 percent of all cruise visitors to Alaska, he said.The industry reported spending $7 million on its payroll in Anchorage, the report said.Direct industry summer employment peaked with about 600 jobs, according to the study. Fall, winter and spring employment dropped to a seasonal low of 50 jobs.Indirect economic cruise industry impact totaled $65 million to the city, the study said.The report is available at the association Web site, (www.alaskacruises.org) under the heading Alaska’s economy.

$1.5 billion capital budget approved

Except for controversial cruise ship pollution-control legislation, state legislators adjourned in a relatively orderly manner a few minutes before their legally mandated deadline of midnight May 8. Lawmakers passed several bills affecting business in the closing days of the 2001 session. Among the more significant were authorizations for about $1.5 billion in capital spending, mostly construction, for the state’s fiscal 2002, the budget year beginning July 1. They include the regular state capital budget of $1.33 billion including federal funds; a separate bill authorizing $110 million in construction to be funded by proceeds from tobacco litigation settlements; and other bills authorized specific projects through lease-back financing, where a third party builds a structure and leases it to the state. Lease-back financing facilities approved this year include a $41 million new Alaska Psychiatric Institute and a $90 million new private prison near Kenai. The fiscal 2002 state capital budget is $237.2 million more than current year spending. While the bulk of the state capital budget is for construction, mainly highways and other transportation projects financed mostly with federal funds, the capital budget also includes other specific appropriations. They include $30 million for an upgrade to the supercomputer at the University of Alaska and one-time funding for the Power Cost Equalization program, which provides a subsidy for rural electric utilities. The rural utility subsidy program is supposed to be self-funding following the planned sale of four state hydroelectric dams to local utilities. Money from the sale is to be placed in an endowment to support future PCE payments. New construction financed by the tobacco litigation settlements includes $75 million for three new rural schools and major reconstruction on other schools around the state, $21 million for a new University of Alaska Fairbanks museum and $13 million for major maintenance on harbor facilities in several coastal communities. Another construction measure, a bill authorizing about $400 million to advance federally funded transportation infrastructure projects around the state, failed to pass the Legislature, however. Also, a proposed $12 million new state food safety laboratory in Anchorage failed to win approval of legislators. However, $1.3 million was appropriated for design work for the facility. Overall, legislators increased fiscal 2002 state general fund spending, funded by state revenues, by $123.7 million more than the current budget year, including the operating and capital budgets. State general fund spending for fiscal 2002 will exceed revenues by $626.7 million, requiring a withdrawal of the same amount from the state’s reserve account, the Constitutional Budget Reserve. The CBR fund now contains about $2.9 billion, according to the state Department of Revenue.  

Around the World May 20, 2001

STATECentral Peninsula hospital administrator resignsSOLDOTNA -- The Central Peninsula General Hospital administrator instrumental in designing the hospital’s portion of the new Kenai Health Center resigned May 11 to pursue new opportunities."I’m working on a couple of projects. I think it’s a good time to be looking at new things," said Martin Richman, outgoing hospital chief executive."I’ve been asked not to talk about them, and I’m kind of a private guy. I certainly like the community."I’ve made friends here -- hospital employees, doctors, the administration. They’re just a super-hard-working group I’m going to admire forever."CPGH Inc., the nonprofit corporation that runs the Kenai Peninsula Borough-owned hospital in Soldotna, announced Richman’s resignationMay 11, effective immediately.Diana Zirul, president of the CPGH Inc. board, said the interim administrator will be Jay Seigfreid, an employee of the hospital’s consultant, Quorum Health Resources.Southeast intertiegains state fundsJUNEAU -- The Southeast Alaska electrical intertie -- a long-range, multiphase power project intended to connect the region’s communities -- is getting a boost from the state.Southeast Conference will receive almost $50,000 to study legal and legislative options for the intertie, according to Executive Director Loren Gerhard. Southeast Conference is a nonprofit regional development organization made up of communities and other groups in Southeast Alaska.The grant will be used to study what type of operating entity might be appropriate for the intertie and what powers it would have. Eventually, the hope is to have such an entity take over the project, allowing Southeast Conference to bow out, Gerhard said. The organization hopes to start the research by the end of the month, he said.The first phase of the intertie would connect Swan Lake near Ketchikan with Lake Tyee near Wrangell. Other links could connect Petersburg and Kake, Juneau and Hoonah, Sitka and Kake, and Sitka, Angoon and Hoonah. Eventually, Prince of Wales Island and Metlakatla would fit into the system, Gerhard said.NationFactory output fallsfor seventh monthWASHINGTON -- Industrial activity fell in April for the seventh month in a row, dashing hopes that the beleaguered sector was turning a corner.The Federal Reserve reported May 14 that output at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities declined by 0.3 percent last month, providing fresh evidence that the economy continued to slow in the spring.While April’s performance was weaker than many analysts expected, what was particularly disappointing to them was a big change in how the industrial sector did in March.At Sprint headquarters,geese know their placeOVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Sprint Corp.’s latest hire makes some guests at the company’s new, multimillion dollar campus a little nervous.But then, that’s her job.Shayla the border collie joined Sprint in early May as its designated goose hater, er, herder. Her job: Find Canada geese and make life miserable for them.So far, the dwindling goose population at the lush 240-acre world headquarters in suburban Kansas City seems to show that Shayla’s doing her job -- and then some.Sprint, the nation’s No. 3 long-distance carrier, is building a large wetlands area in a corner of the campus. When it’s finished next fall or winter, Canada geese and other wildlife will be welcome in that area. And that’s where Shayla will keep them.Mailers coalition callspost office mismanagedWASHINGTON -- A coalition of mass mailers issued a blistering report on U.S. Postal Service productivity May 14, criticizing the agency for driving up stamp prices with shoddy management practices.The Mailers Council, a group of businesses and organizations that accounts for 70 percent of the nation’s mail volume, based the report on data collected from the first quarter of 2001.The group concluded that the country’s post offices are overstaffed and that the Postal Service is not doing enough to integrate technology into the mail sorting process.Postal Service spokesman Greg Frey said the agency appreciates helpful criticism, but noted that the agency’s mission sometimes runs counter to productivity considerations.WorldEU to open energy markets, just not nowBRUSSELS, Belgium -- European energy ministers May 14 reaffirmed their commitment to opening the European Union’s gas and electricity markets to more competition, but failed to move any closer to setting a date for speeding the process."There is a very strong commitment to opening energy markets, but different views on the schedule for this process,’’ said Lars Rekke, state secretary at the Swedish Industry Ministry, who chaired the meeting of ministers from the 15 EU nations. "We don’t want 15 markets that are open to competition, but one single market’’, he added.In a tacit admission that the EU was unlikely to reach an agreement on speeding up the liberalization before early next year, Rekke said Belgium and Spain would continue Sweden’s work on the issue when they take over the EU’s six-month rotating presidency through June 2002.Compiled from business wire services.

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