The 'essential link': Northland Services has supplied barge transportation service to Alaska for three decades.

Author:Parmelee, Catherine

"Go With Experience" was first coined in 1977 when James J. Haagen partnered with tugboat companies in LaConnor, Wash., and Wrangell and formed Northland Services. Haagen's goal was to provide cost-effective barge transportation service to various Alaska ports. The company's first terminal was an unpaved facility in Kenmore, Wash., on the northern shore of Lake Washington, and six voyages were made to Western Alaska in Northland's inaugural year.

Today, Northland Services' 70-acre Seattle facility is capable of loading four barges at one time, and its warehouse capacity exceeds 35,000 square feet. With a fleet consisting of more than 30 tugboats and barges, Northland now delivers freight to more than 125 destinations throughout Alaska, from Ketchikan to Kotzebue and beyond. Hawaii is part of the company's trade route, as well. But Alaska remains the largest market for the transportation company. "It's very important to us," said Executive Vice President Shawn Bohnert.


Northland Services experienced rapid growth and expansion in the mid-1990s, purchasing Yutana Barge Lines, Service Oil and Gas, and various smaller entities. As Northland entered the 21st century, the company continued to evolve. In 2000, Adsteam Marine Ltd., Australia's largest tugboat/ship assist operator, purchased 50 percent of Northland. During the time of Adsteam's ownership, Northland continued to build on its core marine transportation business, acquiring Alaska Cargo Transport and Aloha Cargo Transport, thus complementing Northland's existing Central Alaska service and expanding into the Hawaiian market. Furthermore, Northland merged part of its operation with Boyer Barge Lines, allowing the transportation company to improve and solidify its market position in Southeast Alaska.

Bohnert joined Northland during Adsteam's ownership. Bohnert, with a background as an investment banker and a public company CFO, was living in Australia at the time and was a good friend of Adsteam's CEO. When Adsteam started speaking with Northland about investing into the company, Bohnert was asked to help. It was a good fit: Bohnert, a University of Washington graduate, and whose father was a professor at the University of Alaska, had been in and out of the state of Alaska since he was 14 years old. He understood the lay of the land--its challenges and the needs of its people. So Bohnert moved back to the U.S., and has been a part of the Northland team since that time.


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