It was unexpected and unwanted for the Port of Alaska in Anchorage. The port just got hit with steel tariffs from the Trump administration. This as the port moves forward with an estimated billion-dollar port modernization project.  

Port officials say they purchased some steel pilings that will be inserted into other pilings that are corroded. Those pilings support the docks. Port officials say the contractor notified them that it was being billed by U.S. Customs an extra $500,000 in steel tariffs. Port leaders say they ordered the parts before tariffs went into place.

Port staff were expected to meet with Municipality of Anchorage staff members and attorneys on Thursday to discuss the tariffs "and see if there's anything we can, any recourse we might have to mitigate this in whole or in part," said Port Director Steve Ribuffo.

Ribuffo says it's too early to tell if the cost of the project would increase due to the tariffs.

Meanwhile, the port continues searching for ways to finance the massive billion dollar project. Port External Affairs Director Jim Jager says the port currently has only $56 million in available funds for the modernization.

Jager and Ribuffo say corrosion problems not only continue but are getting worse. In a recent tour, the men showed cracks and holes in dock pilings. Jager says all of the port's 1,423 pilings have some corrosion damage.

Slightly more than 600 pilings have been covered with a metal sleeve to protect their structural integrity. Something port officials say is a temporary "band-aid" fix.

"So, at least we can keep operation loads supported on the dock," Ribuffo said. "It does nothing to improve your ability to survive an earthquake." 

Port officials say an earthquake anywhere near the size of the 9.2 magnitude quake that struck Anchorage on Good Friday in 1964 would devastate the port; possibly knock it completely out of service. They say 45 percent of all the goods that come into Alaska, enter through the port.

They say all of JBER's fuel comes into the port, as well as nearly all of the fuel for Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The port also receives nearly all of the cement for construction projects throughout the state. They say much of the food people buy comes into the port.

"We have about 10 days worth of food and materials in the state. If the port closes down, you have 10 days until the shelves at Fred Meyer and Carrs are completely empty," Jager said.

Jager says a 1500 C-17 military aircraft or 780 cargo aircraft, usually 747s, would be needed each week to fly in all the goods that are now shipped to the port.

The port learned last summer just how fragile some corroded pilings. The port says a corroding piling base crumbled, sending the piling crashing into the water. The piling is behind some padding that ships push up against when they dock.

They say the incident happened when the MS Amsterdam cruise ship cruise ship was docking. They think the force of the water from the ship's thrusters tore the corroded piling's base apart. The 57,000-pound piece nearly hit the cruise ship when it fell.

The Port of Alaska has been designated as a U.S. Commercial Strategic Seaport by the Department of Defense. Port officials say the designation requires the port to "maintain minimum facilities and capabilities." However, they say those are not compensated by the DoD. 

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