A Tote Maritime Alaska ship carrying groceries and other goods was delayed last week before it set sail for Anchorage because of a mechanical issue, causing Alaska grocery stores to run low on some foods.
The North Star, one of Tote's two cargo ships that regularly run between Tacoma and Anchorage, was supposed to depart from Tacoma on Jan. 14 and arrive on Jan. 17, but a problem was discovered shortly before departure.
Grace Greene, vice president and general manager at Tote Maritime Alaska, couldn't say specifically what the mechanical issue was. The ship is being repaired, Greene said, and the plan is to have it fixed by early next week.
Groceries that were supposed to arrive on Sunday were already shipped up to Anchorage on Tote's other ship, the Midnight Sun, and the other goods are expected to arrive soon.
"There's not going to be a grocery shortage," Greene said. "Anytime we have a disruption in our service, we work to make sure the priority freight is handled right away."
The North Star will not depart for a voyage originally scheduled for Jan. 20, according to Tote's website. Its next scheduled departure will be Jan. 27. If repairs are finished before then, "we will sail northbound at the earliest possible time to limit customer impact," the company said.
Much of Alaska relies on goods delivered to the state via ship or barge. Greene said that about 90 percent of the freight that comes into Alaska comes through Anchorage.
As a result of the North Star's delay, many of the refrigerator and freezer shelves at Natural Pantry grocery store in Midtown Anchorage sat empty for a couple of days, said manager Jared Solberg.
"It did affect us," Solberg said. "Our chill and freeze items, we just got in today (Tuesday). We normally get them on Sunday night."
He also said the store is still missing many dry grocery items, like boxed and canned food.
Joe Clark, a manager at New Central Market in Anchorage, said it's been a week since his store has seen any green onions -- longer than usual.
In Fairbanks, the Co-op Market was also running low on dairy and was out of fruit, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
"I think it's important to note that the disruptions are very infrequent," said Greene, "and they're working as hard as they can."
Alaska Dispatch Publishing