It is a scene repeated over two thousand times a year from Icy Bay to Kodiak, from summer, when the sun never sets and the volume of ship traffic in SWAPA’s service area triples, to winter when Knik Arm and Valdez Arm fill with ice. SWAPA pilots are responsible for the safe delivery to the Port of Anchorage of almost half of all the consumer goods sold in the railbelt communities of Alaska, at a rough annual value of $725 million. That includes the cereal you eat for breakfast, the bowl it’s in and the table it sits on.
A SWAPA pilot is at the helm of every cruise ship that makes port in Seward, Whittier, Valdez, Homer, Geographic Harbor and a hundred other little scenic bays and bights, helping to fuel the tourist bonanza that earns Alaska an annual $1.6 billion (in 2004) in tourist spending and $1.15 billion (in 2004) in labor income.
A SWAPA pilot starts the $129 million (in 2002) worth of timber the state exports annually on its journey Outside and to Japan, China and Korea. SWAPA pilots are responsible for the safe transition from harbor to open seas of the $59 million (in 2005) Southcentral salmon catch. And a SWAPA pilot is on the bridge of every supertanker in and out of Valdez, in 2006 carrying cumulatively 277,064,405 barrels of North Slope crude oil through the Valdez Narrows, at an annual gross value of $16,623,864,300. Fifty percent of that goes into the Alaska state treasury, which drives the Permanent Fund and the Permanent Fund Dividend, as of 2005 representing $24,775.45 in twenty-five years of cumulative total payments to each individual Alaskan.
—Dana Stabenow. Alaska Traveler (Kindle Locations 3645-3658). Gere Donovan Press.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.