A new digital cargo network expanded in recent months and now is working with a freight company that’s planning service to Haines.
The network was created by OpenTug, a Seattle-based startup created in 2019 by two recent college graduates. They are seeking to lower shipping costs by consolidating cargo in Southeast Alaska and simplifying the process of booking shipments.
The platform lists when and where freight vessels are sailing and lets customers book shipments with a few clicks.
“It’s about digitizing what’s already there,” said company co-founder and director Jason Aristides. “Those (freight) assets are already moving, but people can’t take advantage of them if they don’t know where (and when) they’re moving.”
Through OpenTug residents now can book cargo shipments on a Talley Transport landing craft that’s scheduled to sail from Juneau to Haines and back once a week this summer. The routes are listed on opentug.com.
Talley Transport is based in Juneau. Owner Larry Talley runs a 41-foot landing craft with a 19-foot loading deck. He said he can unload at the small boat harbor using the crane there or at the Letnikof boat ramp. He also can access remote waterfront properties.
“I’m currently trying regular service to Tenakee Springs, every other week. As far as regular service to other locations, I’m very open to the idea,” Talley said.
He added that he’s not sure yet if Haines can sustain regular business because it has more options for moving freight than the smaller, more remote communities like Tenakee, Pelican and Elfin Cove. “Haines would be strictly if I get business. I would be glad to go to Haines,” he said.
Aristides said once Lutak Dock has been renovated, when bigger ships will have better public access to Haines, the company will be suited to attract more operators.
OpenTug is targeting boats that have capacity to transport freight but aren’t necessarily part of a marine line like AML, which transports time-sensitive cargo. OpenTug is mainly interested in vessels that are already sailing in the area and have additional space that isn’t being used, like ships going to and from the Lower 48 and Southcentral Alaska, which often sail empty in one direction and could deliver cargo to Southeast en route.
“We’re really looking to help people get maximum value out of assets that currently exist and help solve some of the issues with distances and lower volume that cause freight prices to be so high,” Aristides said.
OpenTug is planning to do a survey this year to identify demands for shipping among Southeast communities and the regional economic effects of a more efficient freight transportation system.
Aristides also said he is interested in hearing individually from Haines residents about their specific cargo needs. OpenTug can be reached at opentug.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.