This hearty band of Lynden International employees was ready and waiting for a FedEx charter flight of personal protective equipment (PPE) arriving from China to the Anchorage airport earlier this year. They quickly unloaded five 53-foot containers worth of masks, gowns and other materials and palletized it for next-morning delivery to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services warehouse. According to Regional Vice President Rick Pollock, most employees were working remotely at the time, but the group immediately responded to the call to action and worked late into the night to get the work done. After the Alaska governor made the request for PPE supplies for Alaska's frontline workers, Lynden worked with FedEx and other partners to coordinate the charter, sourcing suppliers in China and handling customs. "From the first planning call in March to the plane landing in Anchorage, Lynden was with us every step of the way. They are a great partner and we are appreciative of their logistical support during the COVID pandemic response," says Heidi Hedberg, Director of Public Health, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
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"We are sometimes called upon to do the exceptional, to directly help a patient in need," says Brian MacAskill, Vice President and General Manager at Lynden International Logistics Co. Earlier this year, Lynden International Logistics Warehouse Supervisor Devendra Solanki (pictured right) received an emergency call from Health Canada at 11:23 p.m. A 10-year-old patient at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto required a lifesaving drug. Within 15 minutes, the order was enroute to the hospital and Devendra delivered it soon after for the patient. "We are very proud of Devendra," Brian says. "Great efforts are made on a daily basis that have a profound impact on the companies and customers we serve."
Every fishing season, Alaska Marine Lines refrigeration mechanics (reefer techs) leave Seattle and make the journey north to keep Lynden's refrigerated containers (reefers) in top shape. The techs fly to Alaska and then accompany the loaded reefers on the southbound barges. These ride-along-with-the-reefer trips have been taking place for years, but the voyage of the reefer technician has not been well known. Until now.
Mechanic Greg Restad was so impressed with his off-site assignment that he decided to document his experience. Greg's notes provide a unique look behind the scenes of this annual effort to protect customers' fish and other refrigerated freight and maintain Lynden's equipment. It should be noted that Greg has 30 years of experience working on refrigerated equipment including working for Les Candee and Art Burg at Foss Maritime in the early 1980s.
According to Assistant Maintenance and Repair Manager Steve Tafoya, mechanics check around 3,000 reefers each year during the north-to-south trips. Most reefers last around 20 years, but with excellent care, they can last longer.
"We run a pre-trip inspection anytime a reefer enters the yard so we keep close tabs on all equipment and any emerging problems," Steve says. "It could be power, a leak, burnout of the evaporator motor or something else. The most common issue with reefers is a lack of communication with the tug. Our mechanics also check and service generator sets, make sure gear vans are stocked and that the GRASP reefer monitoring system, all plugs and time share panels are working," Steve explains. Everything is documented and becomes part of the service record.
Mechanics sleep on the tug when the barge is under way or in bunkhouses in Naknek, Dillingham and St. Paul. Meals are eagerly anticipated as the tug cooks are known for their gourmet cooking. "Naknek has a great bunch of guys and good accommodations," Greg says. "They made me feel welcome and fed me well. It's nice when I get a couple days to check out the yard and my units before loading because once they start loading, these guys move. Everyone pitches in to get us in and out of port. I never heard 'It's not my job' even when I had a container I couldn't fix that was located in the middle of the stack. They had to bring in a barge alongside and crane it out of the middle of my barge. 'It's no one's fault; it can't be helped; let's get it done' was their response."
It's not always smooth sailing. Sometimes parts have to be flown in to repair a reefer or an employee needs medical care. One tech was suffering from an abscessed tooth and had to come back to Seattle, so he traded places with the next tech on the list.
And then there are rough seas. On Greg's first outing in Naknek, he was worried when he heard about 16-foot seas on the voyage. "The 70-knot gusts almost knocked me off my feet in the yard, and then they told me we were going to leave," he says. "Thankfully, Captain Eric kept the wind behind us, charted sheltered waters and, by the time we got into the Gulf, the seas had calmed down to 10 feet. The crews were always great. They were polite and forgiving when I wasn't familiar with the program and ran me though the safety procedures and orientation. It was fun to see how fast I could don a survival suit."
Although the reefer techs are away from home for long periods, they are treated to delicious meals like prime rib and salmon prepared by the tug cooks. The views are pretty good, too. Eagles, whales, sharks and porpoises all share air and sea space with the barges and tugs in the North Pacific. For many reefer techs, it's a nice change of scenery from working in the Seattle yard.
"These techs are on the front line making sure our reefers are keeping the fish cold and the perishables fresh," Steve says. "They spend months away from home, family and friends to uphold the Lynden brand of service. We all appreciate the work they do."
Alaska Marine Lines launched a Stay 6', Stay Safe campaign and contest to encourage social distancing among onsite employees in Seattle, Alaska and Hawaii, according to Bridgette Bell, Director of Human Resources.
The contest ran for a few months and employees submitted ways they were staying safe while at work as well as at home to be entered into the weekly drawing. The employee whose name was drawn won a gift card to a local restaurant in an effort to support local businesses who are also feeling the effects of the pandemic.
Some of the employee led social distancing ideas included employees eating lunch outside or in their car instead of the lunchroom and taping a 6 foot line on the floor in offices. One manager even created a 6 foot safety stick as a tool to give employees a sense of how far away 6 feet actually is.
Even though the contest is no longer running employees are still supporting each other by maintaining social distancing guidelines. Pictured above are employees at the Yard 1 Diesel Shop in Seattle. "We are all in this together, just 6 feet apart," Bridgette says.
Lynden employees are stepping forward to meet the needs of customers, keeping the freight moving as Lynden companies have always done during difficult times. Lynden has maintained regular business operations since the COVID-19 situation arose in late February with no disruption to global shipments or supply chains.
"The safety of our people and serving our customers are our priorities during these challenging times. We've been keeping freight moving to Alaska since 1954, and we're not planning to stop now," says Chairman Jim Jansen. "Lynden companies provide critical cargo services throughout Alaska and beyond and we are committed to delivering essential supplies and services to our customers and communities."
Lynden barges, trucks and planes deliver cargo to all points in Alaska including providing a supply lifeline to much of the state whose only surface supply line is Lynden and its dedicated people. "Our customers need our support to keep their businesses operating during this time and we are also supporting state and federal agencies. Keeping delivery routes open and supplies moving is our main focus and goal," explains Lynden President Jon Burdick. "We have dealt with earthquakes, oil spills, floods and other obstacles. This situation is no different."
According to Alaska Marine Trucking President Scott Hicks, employees are demonstrating the Lynden can-do attitude each day. "I have been so proud of our teams in Alaska," he says. "They are a shining example of the personal commitment required to keep businesses open and the economy moving. I know Lynden employees are doing the same in all locations."
Safety is one of Lynden's core values and many protocols have been implemented to ensure employees are operating in a safe and secure manner throughout all Lynden areas. Lynden's safety teams maintain active communication with local and federal agencies and comply with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control.
"No transportation company in Alaska has a more essential and critical responsibility than we do," Jim says. "Without our service, many Alaskans would not have food and the other items essential to life. We can only meet their needs if our people are healthy, which is our No. 1 priority."
"As this situation unfolds, we are striving to offer a calm port in the storm by continuing to do our jobs as usual," Jon says. "Lynden has always responded in times of need and this is, unfortunately, one of those times. We are grateful for our dedicated employees who are dealing with additional challenges in their everyday work. They are the ones who allow us to serve our customers with minimal disruption."
Lynden companies showed their support to local organizations this winter in Alaska and California. Alaska Marine Lines Account Managers, Mike Morris (above, far left) and Don Hansen (above, far right), pose with the Bristol Bay Angels basketball teams at the Alaska Marine Lines Sockeye Classic in Naknek, AK. Alaska Marine Lines is the primary sponsor for the tournament, which rotates between Naknek and Dillingham each year.
Members of Lynden International's Los Angeles team gave back to the community at the Genesis Invitation Golf Tournament. Lynden team members, Cora Fong-Congelliere (right), Kelly Sayles and Stuart Nakayama served beverages at the tournament with all proceeds supporting Breast Cancer Angels. The Angels program provides financial and emotional assistance to breast cancer patients and families as they undergo treatment.
Pete Kaiser won the 41st running of the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race in January. For the fifth time in six years, the Bethel local was crowned champion of what is called the toughest mid-distance mushing race in the world. Pete maintained a solid lead for the last leg of the race, so it was not a surprise when he pulled into the finish chute with his nine-dog team. Pete works for the Lynden family of companies, who are long-time sponsors of his racing career and Kaiser Racing Kennels in Bethel. At the finish line he was surrounded by family, friends and fans. "Lynden companies proudly sponsor Pete each year and his dedication and hard work are a true carryover from the job to the trail," says Knik President Dan Hall. Though the K300 is always competitive, Kaiser said that the field of elite mushers this year was especially fierce. "Dog teams are getting better and better and so are the drivers." Pete will be competing in the 2020 Iditarod which begins tomorrow, March 7, in Anchorage!
Many Lynden employees think of their coworkers as their work family which was illustrated by New York Senior Account Executive Giovanna Aquilino. When a fellow Lynden International employee needed a favor, she quickly agreed, even though she had never met Dan Gotham. Dan had a friend whose 13-year-old daughter was connecting on a flight from Australia to Miami at JFK. Her flight was delayed and then cancelled. "Dan was worried about her connection and reached out to see if I could contact her through the airline," Giovanna says. The young woman was stranded at the airport alone and due to many weather cancellations would have been directed to a hotel to stay. After speaking to her mother Giovanna offered to rescue her and have her stay at her home. "I am not a hero, only a person with a heart," she says.
Soldotna Knik employees Pete Hoogenboom and Aaron Verba were on their way to a paving job in Whittier recently when they came across a head-on accident on the Sterling Highway in Alaska. "It was still dark and the roads were icy," Pete says. "We were first on the scene."
The lone driver in one car was already deceased, but the other vehicle contained three passengers who were still alive. The car was badly damaged and there was a risk of an electrical or engine fire. Pete and Aaron used a chain to bend the door open and a reciprocating saw to get to the door latch. They got two of the passengers out and into Knik's warm pickup until emergency services arrived. The third passenger in the car was badly injured with a broken back, hip, legs and feet. They wisely decided not to move her, but Pete stayed in the car with her, talking to her to keep her conscious for almost two hours until the life flight arrived to the remote area.
The American Red Cross of Alaska heard of Pete and Aaron's actions and named them in the 2020 Real Heroes Awards for being Good Samaritan Heroes in the video below.
"Their actions are nothing short of heroic," says Knik Estimator Sean McKeown, but Pete is reluctant to accept the title of hero. "We did the right thing, the same that we hope someone would do for our loved ones in that situation," he says.
"Great people do great things," agrees Knik President Dan Hall. "I couldn't be prouder of these two men."
We would like to recognize the following Lynden employees who retired this past year. We are grateful for their service and contributions to Lynden, and we wish them well on their new adventures!
Steve McQueary – Brown Line, 40 years
Steve (photo to the right) started working for Brown Line in 1979 with a short break in between to serve as an expert for U.S. Customs in the ACE Truck Manifest Program. In his 40-year career, he has been a driver, dock manager, dispatcher, general and sales manager. "As we are a small company, I also assisted in accounts payables, loaded trucks, received freight, handled insurance, cleaned the kitchen and did whatever needed to be done. I have also assisted other Lynden companies with FDA compliance," he says.
In the 1970s, truckloads of frozen salmon were packed in 100-pound boxes, halibut was shipped loose on the floor stacked like cord wood and full loads of King Crab sections were common. "I haven't seen a truckload of 100-pound salmon boxes shipped in years, it is now illegal to ship halibut on the floor, and the halibut quotas have decreased by 80 percent from what they were in the 70s," Steve says. "The value of King Crab makes it difficult for most buyers to buy a truckload."
Other changes Steve has seen in his career: freight ships on pallets and all trucks have a pallet jack. "In the 70s, everything we hauled was floor loaded and we used hand trucks. Paper log books were used for hours, drivers were more independent as there were no cell phones, and it was at their discretion to call in, much to the chagrin of the dispatchers. That world no longer exists with cell phones, satellite tracking, electronic logs and truck sensors."
Steve's most memorable project involved Trident Seafoods. "One of their overseas plants had run out of product and shut down," he recalls. "Sixty loads were sitting south of Seattle that needed to be shipped to Bellingham in a 3-day period. I had no clue on how we would cover it, but said that we would. Trident had turned around a vessel that was already at sea to return to Bellingham to pick this product up. We worked with other Lynden companies, using as many rigs as possible and saved Trident money by reducing the number of truckloads and delivering it all on time. This was a great "One Lynden" example. I took pride that Trident trusted me to get it done and that, at Lynden, nothing can stop us."
Retirement will bring home and woodworking projects, fishing, camping, golfing and touring the country with his wife in their Mustang convertible. "It's been a great career," Steve says. "I've made a lot of friends and enjoyed being a part of the Lynden family."
Cherri Webby – Lynden Transport, 32 years
Cherri (photo to the right) started her career in 1987 as a Customer Service Representative in Ketchikan. "We worked for Arrowhead Transfer and were agents for Lynden Transport and Alaska Marine Lines. Lynden Transport used the highway to Prince Rupert, then the Alaska Marine Highway system to deliver freight in Southeast Alaska," she says. "Alaska Marine Lines had one weekly barge that serviced Southeast." In 2002, Cherri moved to Seattle and went to work for Alaska Marine Lines as a customer service representative, later becoming the manager of the department. Three years later, she went to work for Lynden Transport as Director of Customer Service.
"The biggest change I have seen in my career is the streamlining of our processes to move freight," she says. "From receiving the shipment, to moving the shipment from the dock to the trailer, to the customer, it has become much more efficient." Cherri's retirement plans include travel and family time.
Gary Schmahl – Lynden Air Cargo, 22 years
Gary (photo to the right) began his career as an inspector with Lynden Air Cargo in 1997. He moved into Quality Control as a manager of scheduled maintenance and ended his career as a project manager. He has watched the company expand from two leased Electras to 10 L382 Hercules aircraft.
"My best memory is bringing six foreign aircraft onto the U.S. registry from 2005 to 2019," he says. "I have been the Quality Control Representative for over 130 B Checks and C Checks since 1999 in Singapore, the U.K., Canada and elsewhere." A B Check is a two-week maintenance and service check, and a C Check is a six-week heavy inspection and maintenance check," he says.
Gary's retirement plans include outdoor sports and traveling. He has a winter home in the Ozark Mountains for fishing and a home in Anchorage to enjoy the Alaska summers. "I would like to thank Lynden and all its good people and leadership for the past 22 years," he says. "There has been a lot of travel (1.5 million miles on Delta alone) and plenty of new experiences around the world. I had a lot of responsibility and all the tools to handle the tasks plus the appreciation for a job well done."
Paul Willing – Lynden Air Cargo, 20 years
Paul Willing (photo to the right) has been part of Lynden Air Cargo for almost 21 years, first as Director of Quality Control from 1999 to 2007 and then as Vice President of Maintenance from 2007 to 2019. In that time, he watched the company grow from an Alaskan operation to a worldwide company. "I really enjoyed the aircraft acquisitions over the years in Singapore, France and South Africa," Paul says, "and working with the dedicated and talented professionals at Lynden Air Cargo." His most memorable project was starting an airline in Papua New Guinea. Paul will start the new decade and his retirement with winter travel and spending more time sailing. "I would like to thank Lynden for the challenges and opportunities," he says.
Bob Weeks – Lynden Inc., 16 years
Bob has played an important part behind the scenes at Lynden for the past 16 years. Starting as a CPA in the Tax Department, he worked on corporate tax returns and conducted internal audits of operating companies for compliance and other issues.
The audits sometimes took months and Bob enjoyed getting to know each company's processes and talking to the people. "Alaska Marine Lines probably has the most assets in the most places of any Lynden company. Keeping track of every piece of equipment is a challenge," he says. "At the end of one particular audit, they were able to locate every asset, down to one last container at the bottom of a stack during their busy fish season."
Looking back, Bob's biggest challenge was learning the foreign tax laws necessary for setting up Lynden's new companies in Papua New Guinea and Ghana, Africa.
Retirement will bring motorhome trips with his wife, Rena, to Arizona and national parks in Utah. "I will enjoy not waking up at 5:01 a.m. every morning," he says, "but Lynden was a great company to work for."
Oksana Begej – Alaska Marine Lines, 38 years
Fish Queen. That is one of the titles Alaska Marine Lines Human Resources Director Oksana Begej listed when asked for her career information. After 38 years, she is entitled to a little fun. Oksana started her career back in 1982 when multipage invoices were typed on electric typewriters. "We went through a lot of whiteout!" she says.
Starting as Office Manager in Seattle, she moved into customer service, dispatch and finally human resources. "My best memories are the fabulous people I have worked with," she says, "and my favorite project would be skeleton entry where we didn't have to dig through piles of bills of lading to see if a shipment was received. That was a total game changer for us and our customers at the time."
Now that she is retired, Oksana plans to enjoy more time with her husband. "Alaska Marine Lines and Lynden are amazing and have provided a wonderful career for me and benefits for my family."
Pictured above retirees Bob Weeks, Oksana Begej and Eric Linde
Eric Linde – Alaska Marine Lines, 24 years
Eric Linde has worked in various areas at Alaska Marine Lines during his 24 years, mostly providing leadership and management of Service Centers or Maintenance and Repair (M&R).
One of his best career memories was the Ketchikan Bypass. "We had 100 custom 20-foot containers made that could carry 100K pounds of bulk cement and other bulk products. A new forklift design was required with a lifting capacity of more than 100,000 pounds. We built and assembled transfer system conveyors and bag houses along with a tipper system that assisted in the transfer of bulk cement products from the containers to trailers on the Ketchikan end. It was a BIG job," he remembers.
Eric also commented on the changes in containers over the years. "I watched containers get bigger and heavier – from standard gauge to 10' high and 102" wide with increased gross weights. We had to increase the forklift size and carrying capacity and ability to stack them higher. Then we had new barges built to carry the larger containers and handle the increase in freight volumes. It's been amazing to see and be part of Lynden's futuristic ideas that have become the norm here at Alaska Marine Lines," he says.
Selah, WA is where Eric and his wife have decided to spend their retirement years. Their home is on acreage with a shop for Eric to enjoy his hobby of restoring antique farm tractors and agriculture equipment. "I am an avid snow and water skier, so I hope to spend more time in those activities now. We also have plans to continue to travel and see our National Parks that we have not been to yet. It's been an amazing career at Alaska Marine Lines. Thank you for the opportunity to meet and work with so many great people. I feel blessed to have been a small part of it."
Bill Merk – Alaska Marine Trucking, 28 years
Bill (photo to the right) has been a 'jack of all trades' serving as a warehouseman, driver, customer service representative, warehouse lead, barge and yard freight operator, and, most recently, Human Resources Coordinator and HSSE Manager for the Juneau office during a career at Arrowhead Transfer from 1991 to 1997 and Alaska Marine Trucking from 1997 to 2019.
"The biggest changes I have seen in almost three decades is the ongoing development of freight managing processes and the increase in opportunities for employees to grow within the Lynden family of companies," Bill says. "I am most proud of the success of Alaska Marine Trucking's continuing safety improvements."
Bill's retirement plans include spending time with family in Portland, OR and completing his second collection of poetry. He also plans to travel and rediscover the deserts and mountains of the American Southwest. "It has been a pleasure working for a company that takes such good care of its employees; I couldn't imagine working anywhere else," he says.
Paula Daggett - Alaska Marine Trucking, 28 years
Paula Daggett (photo to the right) retired from Alaska Marine Trucking in September after 28 years as a Customer Service Representative in Ketchikan. She is pictured with other members of the Lynden team at her retirement celebration. From left: Dan Kelly, Paula, Adam Anderson, Paul Haavig, Alaska Marine Lines President Kevin Anderson and Executive Vice President Alex McKallor.
Senior Aircraft Records Specialist Pat Logan and Director of Quality Control Jeff Pull also retired from Lynden Air Cargo in December with 18 and 17 years of service respectively.