Sen. Begich to introduce legislation creating Arctic Port Authority

The state of Alaska is working with the US Army Corps of Engineers to locate a site for a deep water port.

Alaska Senator Mark Begich says he plans to introduce legislation creating an Arctic Port Authority to facilitate Alaska’s future international shipping needs. Begich made the announcement over the weekend at Arctic Imperative Summit.

Senator Mark Begich is a strong supporter of greater ice breaking capacity in Alaska’s Arctic waters. Begich’s remarks during his talk at the Arctic Imperative Summit pointed to the cooperation of Nome area Sitnasuak Native Corporation and Vitus Marine in bringing life- giving fuel to Nome last winter.

“People back in Washington would say, what’s the latest, what’s happened, what’s going on? It was kind of like the Iditarod of the 21st century on ice. It was kind of an interesting change of events that brought people’s attention to what’s going on. But it also brought to the attention of the administration and others that we have limited icebreaking capacity,” Begich said.

That attention getting moment highlighted the needs of the Arctic for a while. Begich says it’s important to keep national focus on the Arctic

“Do we need a deep water port? Yes. Do we need additional ports? Yes. Better communications systems, weather satellites, helicopter hangers, pipeline activity to move what’s in the Chukchi and Beaufort to our overall pipeline that moves it down to Valdez,” Begich said.

He stressed that the Arctic is becoming a new destination for tourism, too. But lack of infrastructure is the challenge. And Begich says he’s going to do something about that.

“We are an Arctic nation. We need to have the resources to approach this new opportunity for us in the right way with the right infrastructure. When we get back, we’ve been working on a piece of legislation, we’ll introduce it in September. It will create the Arctic Port Authority which will design an area and create an opportunity for us to create an independent, semi – private, U.S. Arctic Deep Water Port Authority to plan, finance and build and maintain such a port. It will be critical for our oil and gas industry and it will also be critical for logistics and for support of the full utilization of what goes on in the Arctic,” Begich said.

In addition he said, the legislation would authorize the port authority to establish sub ports to serve as regional trans- shipment hubs to facilitate commerce in Arctic communities. Begich said the aim is to establish a network of ports to serve future shipping needs.

The Senator pointed out that Shell Oil Company’s plans for the coming years include 22 support vessels. Begich said that in three years, 200 vessels could be serving oil development alone.

Alaska Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, told the group that the state is working with the US Army corps of engineers on locating a site for a deep water port

“If Shell is successful in its exploration, you are going to see a need for developing small ports on the North Slope, for servicing that. So the very interesting question, and I think that the prospect of a port authority is a provocative question to look at, is how should we try to finance these ports together or separately. The question with any port is what throughput is going to pay the bill,” Treadwell said.

According to Treadwell, Trans Arctic shipping depends on cooperation among the international governments involved to help decision makers look at coordinated investment in ports and airports.

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