Boyer Barge Lines, the Ketchikan-based company that has provided freight services to southern Southeast Alaska for 35 years, announced this week its merger with Seattle-based Northland Services, the second-largest provider of freight service in Southeast Alaska.
The merger will streamline the two companies' service to Southeast Alaska, making them a more formidable competitor to Alaska Marine Lines, the region's top freight transport provider, said Shawn Richardson, general manager for Boyer in southern Southeast.
"Essentially what you have today is two very strong freight companies in Southeast Alaska: Northland/Boyer and AML," Richardson said.
The companies decided to move ahead on the merger four months ago, recognizing declines in the need for barge service in southern Southeast in the last eight years. Representatives from both companies said the merger will result in better service to Southeast communities.
"Boyer's customer base will be enhanced by the Northland Service operations in Southeast Alaska," Richardson said. "If someone wants to move something out of Southeast, it's seamless."
In Ketchikan, Northland Services operations will be moved to the Boyer Barge terminal, and communities traditionally served by Boyer Barge will still receive bills under Boyer Barge's name.
In Seattle, operations for Boyer Barge Lines will move to the Northland Services terminal.
Northland Services has been serving Southeast Alaska since the company formed in 1977, and has been providing regular weekly service to Southeast since 1985, said Northland Service Senior Vice President Bill Northey.
"This helps strengthen the alternative to the predominant carrier in Southeast Alaska, which should be good for all of Southeast, especially Juneau," said Jim Scholz, Southeast regional sales manager for Northland Services. "It makes us a much more efficient company."
Total service to Southeast Alaska from the two companies will stay unchanged after the merger. Boyer Barge Lines offers weekly service out of Seattle to Ketchikan, several Prince of Wales Island communities, Wrangell and Metlakatla. Northland Services operated mainly between Seattle and northern Southeast, and overlapped with Boyer in Ketchikan and Wrangell, Scholz said.
Because the companies are a natural fit for the merger, very few of their employees overlap in terms of duties, Richardson said.
"In one way there will be a loss of positions, not a lot, but maybe one or two," he said. "But there's also something that's gained by this: we will be transporting with a tug and a barge out of Ketchikan to Sitka, so there will be people employed by that part of it. It's a trade-off."
Alaska Marine Lines, Northland/Boyer's largest competitor, does not plan to change its pricing or services as a result of the merger, said AML Vice President of Operations Don Reid. AML offers barge service from Seattle to Juneau twice a week, stopping in Ketchikan, Craig, Wrangell, Sitka, Petersburg, Haines, Skagway and Yakutat.
Christine Schmid can be reached at email@example.com.