Samson Tug and Barge intends to serve Southeast

JUNEAU — A barge line plans to return to service in southeast Alaska.

Sitka-based Samson Tug and Barge is looking to capitalize on changes among competitors in southeast, CoastAlaska reported.

Samson used to serve the timber industry, but as the industry shrank in Southeast, the company began carrying cargo to and from Seattle, Prince William Sound, the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak and two ports in Aleutian Islands.

“We started in Southeast, we still have our headquarters in Southeast, so why not be in Southeast. It just makes sense,” Samson Tug and Barge Vice President Cory Baggen told the radio network.

However, there was a drawback.

“We’ve looked at entering the Southeast market over the years. But with two carriers in the region there really hasn’t been room for a third,” she said.

There are two carriers already serving Southeast, but Lynden — which operates Alaska Marine Line — is in the process of buying the other, Northland Services.

Operations in towns that already have both carriers will see their service combined into one carries, opening up the opportunity for Samson to re-enter the market.

“Our plans right now are to serve Ketchikan, Juneau, Wrangell, Petersburg, all of Prince of Wales Island and Metlakatla,” Baggen said.

Among the hurdles the Lynden acquisition faces are the threat of it creating a monopoly.

That’s why Lynden CEO Jon Burdick said he supports Samson’s expansion plans.

“There is a regulatory review process and the state of Alaska wants to ensure that where there’s competitive overlap between Lynden and Northland, that there’s alternative services available,” he said.

Lynden’s purchase of Northland will expand its service area to western Alaska and Hawaii, but they don’t intend reduce port calls in southeast Alaska.

“At a minimum, they’ll receive equal frequency of service. In terms of equaling what AML’s doing now or what AML plus Northland’s doing now? AML plus Northland,” he said.

Most Northland employees should keep their jobs, or find new work with Alaska Marines Lines or Samson, Burdick said.

Samson will be hiring, Baggen said.

“Eventually, we’ll probably double our size, probably have somewhere between 120 and 160 employees,” she said.

Most of those employees will be from Alaska.

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