Anchorage mayor urges panic-shoppers to ‘stay chill’ – goods are flowing into the state without problems, shippers say

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and other shipping and logistics professionals addressing the media at the Port of Alaska on Sunday March 22, 2020. They say the supply chain is running smoothly, unchanged by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Mayowa Aina/Alaska Public Media)

Flanked by representatives of various levels in the supply chain at the Port of Alaska on Sunday, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said there’s no need to worry about any potential breakdown in the supply chain that puts products on shelves of Alaska’s stores.

“The ships are arriving today, they will arrive later in the week. They will do it again next week, twice, and they will continue to do that,” Berkowitz said. “That is business as normal.”

Across the state and the country grocery stores have been struggling to keep up with skyrocketing customer demand for products as people stock up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. People in Anchorage and across the U.S. are being asked to stay home and away from others as much as possible.

Read more: Berkowitz issues an emergency ‘hunker down’ order for Anchorage residents, effective Sunday

Demand may be high, but supply is steady. Shipments will continue to arrive at the Port of Alaska as regularly scheduled on Sundays and Tuesdays, said Alex Hofeling, general manager and vice president for Tote Maritime’s Alaska office.

“We anticipate no issues with the supply chain to Alaska. It’s strong, it’s resilient,” said Hofeling. “And we have business continuity plans in place to deal with any changing circumstances, (so) people should go back to their normal buying habits. All the goods will be replenished and the supply chain is very strong.”

A spokesperson for Matson, the shipping company, said that twice-weekly shipments to Kodiak and once weekly shipments to Dutch Harbor will continue as well.

A crane prepares to move a shipping container off a cargo ship and onto a truck at the Port of Alaska on March 22, 2020. Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says this is business as usual at the port. (Mayowa Aina/Alaska Public Media)

Shipments by air continue uninterrupted too, according to David Karp who manages a family of companies including Northern Air Cargo. He said Alaskans, particularly in rural areas, can rely on the current infrastructure that’s in place.

“Cargo is moving on schedule,” said Karp. “In some cases, if there’s a silver lining, the reduction in passenger travel to bush destinations has actually created more capacity for mail and freight to move.”

Read more: Alaska shippers, store owners say ‘panic-buying’ isn’t necessary, but long lines and empty shelves persist

Representatives also discussed safety protocols that companies are implementing including keeping crew members on ships and limiting anyone boarding ships to “essential personnel” in order to lessen interaction between crew members and the community.

Related: Read more coronavirus coverage from Alaska Public Media

While the ‘hunker down’ order takes effect in Anchorage Sunday night at 10 p.m., Berkowitz’s message to Alaskans is to “stay chill” and try not to buy more than needed so other people can have access to products as well.

“I will point out in those 600 containers include the toilet paper that people seem to be hoarding,” Berkowitz said. “You don’t need to do that any longer. You didn’t need to do that at all.”

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