Borough approves study to examine shipping rates over past decade

The borough is taking a closer look at the cost of shipping goods by barge to Wrangell.

The assembly last Tuesday approved a $7,300 study by Rain Coast Data, prompted, in part, after Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski raised “the very serious issue of shipping rates as a concern” when she was in town earlier in September.

“The senator asked if the borough had documentation of the increases. The answer is no,” borough officials reported to the assembly for its consideration of the rate-history contract.

Mayor Steve Prysunka had requested a shipping rate study, and Borough Manager Lisa Von Bargen reached out to Rain Coast Data, which specializes in economic data research in Southeast and has done several economic surveys and studies in Wrangell.

In a letter dated Sept. 20, Meilani Schijvens, director of Rain Coast Data, quoted $7,300 “to develop a freight study to track the growing costs of freight over time along with any changes in services those costs represent.”

The study will track rates between Seattle and Wrangell from 2012 to 2021 following the merger between Alaska Marine Lines and Northland Services in 2013, Schijvens wrote.

In addition to tracking the “rate sheet” costs, her team will also track other changes to cost structures that are more nuanced. These include, but are not limited to, fuel surcharges, full-container versus partial-load options, preferred customer benefits and pallet requirements.

The Rain Coast Data team will work with the borough to develop the survey and ensure that key businesses participate, Schijvens wrote.

The survey will also be open to all Wrangell businesses to share their experiences using marine freight over the past decade.

A final report that incorporates survey data, interview summaries and additional research data on the decline in ferry services will be furnished to the city.

Wrangell shifted money from its general reserves to cover the cost of the survey.


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