Lynden Oilfield Services' fleet of three PistenBully snowcats have been hard at work in Prudhoe Bay this past winter. In an average week, the cats delivered essential supplies to a remote drilling site 145 miles southwest of Deadhorse and hauled a propane truck to refill two remote tanks used to power a weather station. Operators Tony Warner, Joel Martens, James McSharry and Hunter Keogh operate the machines in severe conditions to serve Lynden customers. They received instruction in freight operations and survival as part of their preparation to operate the machines in extreme weather. The PistenBullys give Lynden customers over-snow options to move their cargo including heavy equipment, containers and camps.
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The combined talents of employees at Alaska Marine Lines, Alaska Marine Trucking and Alaska West Express were behind the successful move of four massive tanks from Seattle to Anderson, AK. According to Anchorage Service Center Manager Alex Clifford, the tanks traveled from Seattle to Whittier via barge, where Erik Scott, Whittier Service Center Manager, and the Alaska Marine Trucking team loaded them to rail cars for the trip to Anchorage.
Upon arrival, they were carefully transferred to Alaska West Express trucks (pictured above) where Drivers Brian Ambrose and Gary Ridall took the last leg – almost 300 miles north – to Clear Air Force Station Base and the radar facility in Anderson. Eric Meade and Malcolm Henry drove the assist trucks to help the loads up the hills due to winter conditions. The two teams worked together to help each other with loading and unloading operations. The four tanks required two transporters for two round trips.
"This project started with Jeff McKenney at Alaska Marine Lines," says Alaska West Express Project Manager Steve Willford. "There was a lot of effort put in by Alaska Marine Lines and Alaska Marine Trucking people getting the tanks to Anchorage so that we could transport to destination. All in all, it was a great One Lynden move."
Since mid-December, Lynden has been assisting with the distribution of equipment to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, but now the shipments contain the vaccine itself. Each morning Lynden International District Operations Manager Bob Barndt gets a phone call alerting him to an incoming shipment arriving in Anchorage from Louisville, KY. Bob meets the plane and personally transfers the boxes of vaccine to Alaska Airlines where they are checked in as critical care shipments – the highest level of service available. After arriving in Bethel, AK, the Lynden agent receives the boxes and hand delivers them to hospitals in Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue and Barrow for distribution to village elders and front-line workers in those communities.
"For over 30 years, we have managed deliveries to remote Alaska communities," Bob explains, "but the vaccine shipments are different than anything else we have handled." Lynden provides white-glove service for each 40-pound box which is red-flagged as hazmat material. The vaccine is packed in dry ice and each box contains a GPS tracking device and temperature monitor.
"We never lose control of the boxes and have eyes on them during the entire journey," Bob says. Shipping paperwork is also vitally important so the federal rollout of vaccines is documented. Pictured right, Lynden employees offload a shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kotzebue, AK.
The vaccine deliveries will continue this year along with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gowns and gloves to protect those administering the drugs. Boxes of dry ice are sometimes shipped along with PPE to ensure that the vaccine remains temperature controlled at destination. "There is no guarantee that the destination hospitals or other locations have enough dry ice, so it's considered a precautionary measure," Bob explains.
The boxes are tracked from origin to destination, so speed and timing is critical. "Lynden has a reputation for excellent service and on-time delivery, so we are all working as fast and efficiently as we can to uphold that standard," Bob says. "We want to get the vaccine to those who need it most and to protect our customers and their families." In addition to utilizing Alaska Airlines, Lynden Air Cargo was called into service to fly the vaccine to Kotzebue last month and will continue to make its aircraft available if needed. In 2009, the State of Alaska also relied on Lynden International to distribute the H1N1 vaccine to more than 400 locations.
Bode Hostetter is a huge fan of Lynden Air Cargo's C-130 Hercules aircraft. Knowing a charter would be visiting their remote Alaska village of Noatak, his parents reached out to Lynden to see if they could purchase some Lynden items for Bode's fourth birthday. "I have a 4-year-old boy that just loves seeing the Lynden Herc flying to Noatak," writes Brent Hostetter. "I am curious if you sell merchandise or something with a picture of the herc?"
"We were glad to help celebrate Bode's special day," says Dani Myren, Lynden Air Cargo Customer Service Manager. Dani sent a birthday package on the next charter flight including a T-shirt, hat and a model of a C-130. "You and the crew made his day," Brent writes. "He did not stop playing with that model all evening yesterday. I had actually been trying to find that model online for him."
Lynden Air Cargo delivered a mobile medical facility, called "Clinic in a Can," to Western Alaska this fall bringing much-needed medical services to the small community of Naknek. Pictured to the right, Clinic in a Can is the brainchild of a doctor who began repurposing 20-foot containers as emergency medical clinics for third-world countries. Ethan Bradford, Lynden Air Cargo's Vice President of Technical Operations, put the project together.
Alaska West Express transported the mobile clinic from Wichita, KS to Tacoma where it moved via ship to Anchorage. Lynden Air Cargo took the last leg to King Salmon's Camai Community Health Center. "Protecting workers, Alaskans and our communities during the fishing season and year-round continues to be an important challenge in our state's COVID response," explains Mary Swain, Executive Director of the Camai Health Center. "We received grant money to purchase the mobile clinic, and we can transport it to wherever it is needed most." The clinic has proven so effective, she has requested two more to serve the region. "This was a good One Lynden door-to-door move from Wichita to Naknek," says Matt Jolly, Vice President of Sales and Pricing for Alaska West Express.
In another recent project, the Lynden companies worked together to transport two oversized turbines, one from Houston, the second from Kenai, to Prudhoe Bay, AK. Lynden International coordinated the transportation, which involved a charter flight on Lynden Air Cargo to Anchorage then truck delivery via Lynden Oilfield Services to two North Slope destinations.
Lynden Oilfield Services equipment crossed tundra-covered public lands in Alaska this winter and spring to deliver critical infrastructure across the North Slope that couldn't wait until this summer's barging season.
Methanol, cement mixer trucks, front-end loaders, sheet steel and fire trucks were included in the remote deliveries. Time was limited as the tundra is closed to travel once the snow depth deteriorates. In the photo below a fire truck destined for the Barrow Airport is towed by a PistenBully pulling a sleigh across the North Slope Borough's Community Winter Access Trail. Air freight and other alternatives were not an option for most of the cargo due to weight and dimensional challenges.
"This season was the busiest yet for snow road projects, which meant many challenges for our team. With the hard work and innovative thinking of our crew we were able to pull it all off," says John Jansen, General Manager of Lynden Oilfield Services. The team moved more than a million pounds of freight on the North Slope this season using the PistenBully snow cats. These deliveries allowed for more efficient and newer housing in the community of Atqasuk and helped the village of Utqiaġvik repair and replace fuel storage areas. Unlike conventional trucks that move freight on roads with existing right-of-way and permits, the PistenBully snow cats must travel across property owned by a variety of entities at an average speed of 9 mph.
"We have to ask permission and/or obtain permits from all of the land owners before we can begin the work," says Tyler Bones, Director of HSSE for Alaska West Express. "The Lynden Oilfield Services team did an amazing job this year moving the freight that ranged from housing modules to a fire truck. We had a professional group of employees that made the long hours and challenges look easy."
The moves involve cooperation between Lynden companies and Alaska partners like the Bureau of Land Management, North Slope Borough and Alaska Department of Natural Resources. In all, Alaska West Express and Lynden Oilfield Services worked with 10 different local, state, and federal agencies and three native corporations this season.
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."
The 2019 Together Tree, an 18-foot Sitka Spruce harvested from Revillagigedo Island in Ketchikan, was transported to Juneau by Alaska Marine Lines and displayed during the Alaska Governor's holiday open house. The tree celebrates the special relationships between the U.S. Forest Service, Alaska Native peoples, the state and rural Alaska communities. Pictured from left, Ketchikan Warehouse Lead Brian Anthony, Yard Supervisor Keith Nelson and Richard Finger load the tree into a container for transport.
Imagine working 46 days each year in zero visibility. Now imagine being responsible for safely transporting people and freight in these conditions. For the professional mariners working on Lynden's Bering Marine hovercraft team, it's all part of the job. Five times each day, they load up the AP-188 hovercraft with 60 ENI Petroleum employees and safely transport them roundtrip from Prudhoe Bay to Spy Island, a drill site near Oliktok Point, AK. Six Bering Marine captains and deck hands support the project which also includes hauling freight for ENI and operating as a medivac standby vessel.
"Our ENI partnership is a highly successful operation," says Port Engineer Steve Isaacs. "Over the past decade we've made over 5,000 trips to the Spy Island drill site, carrying over 50,000 passengers and over 20 million pounds of freight. We've been able to prove the value and reliability of this type of vessel in this environment. It's hard to compete with a machine like our hovercrafts".
While the North Slope crew is hard at work in Prudhoe Bay, another three members of the hovercraft team are in Bethel delivering mail and essential freight to remote villages in the western part of Alaska. This service, which began in the 1990s, provides delivery to villages on the Kuskokwim River throughout the year. The winding river presents its own challenges with traffic from snow machines in the winter and boats in the summer.
Captain Paul "Duke" Bischoff spent 15 years in the Navy's hovercraft program before joining Lynden. "I really enjoy operating this type of craft because of the special challenges while maneuvering over land and ice, as well as the frequent high-wind situations we get in the arctic," he says. "Combined with the changing conditions at our landing site during the ice formation and breakup, you have an operation that definitely keeps you on your toes."
From September to February, the six members of the hovercraft team are the only mariners on the entire North Slope. "No other merchant marine works in the arctic that time of year," Steve explains. "Our hovercraft team serves as the medivac and lifeline for emergency situations in subzero temperatures."
A few years ago, the team started a spring cleanup program, using the unique capabilities of the hovercraft to pick up ice road debris during breakup. "Our hovercraft is the only vessel that can reach these areas during the spring thaw. We are doing our part to keep the arctic clean," Steve says.
The quick response of new Alaska Marine Trucking Driver Andrew Lawson saved company equipment and prevented the loss of three new cars belonging to a customer. Alaska Marine Trucking delivers vehicles to an auto dealership in Juneau twice weekly, year-round, with a specialized car-hauling trailer. Andrew was on the road to the dealership when he heard a loud ‘BOOM!’ He saw flames in his rear view mirror, pulled over and saw the trailer was on fire. The brakes of the trailer overheated and the brake drum blew in a fiery explosion. This, in turn, caught the inside trailer tire on fire, destroying it.
Andrew grabbed the fire extinguisher from his truck and quickly put out the flames. After the incident, he inspected all the gear and freight involved, and called his dispatcher. Fortunately Andrew and the cargo being transported were unharmed. Dispatcher Carolyn Smith contacted the dealership, and Andrew was able to unload the cars safely to complete delivery to the customer. "Thanks to his quick thinking and actions, Andrew saved the customer's shipment and Alaska Marine Lines what might have been a total loss of our equipment. I would like to recognize him for using his safety training, quick thinking and fast actions to save a disaster from happening," Carolyn says.