Amendment could save up to 15 percent of cargo business

Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) Sen. Ted Stevens has again convinced his U.S. Senate colleagues to allow foreign air carriers to switch their cargo to other companies' planes in Alaska.

Stevens' thinks his amendment could save up to 15 percent of the cargo business at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

The amendment still must be approved by a House-Senate conference committee. Last year, a conference committee on the U.S. Department of Transportation's spending bill killed a similar amendment.

This time, Stevens has attached the amendment to the Senate version of a bill that reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration. The House version doesn't have the language. Both passed last week.

Stevens said he is worried about what will happen to his provision in the conference committee with the House.

''I'm not so sure because I think there's one portion of the union movement that misunderstands what we did,'' he said.

Current federal law prohibits ''interlining'' of goods from foreign countries on foreign planes. Such carriers can shift cargo to another plane from the same country, but not to anyone else's country, the department said.

Officials at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport say that rule has put it at a disadvantage in the worldwide cargo market.

''We compete with Vancouver, Khabarovsk, Tashkent, Toronto. They don't have these restrictions,'' said airport director Morton V. Plumb Jr. last year. ''If this activity can take place someplace else, then they will do it.''

Foreign-owned air carriers aren't generally allowed to operate in the United States, but they can carry cargo if they form a ''code share'' agreement with a domestically owned airline, Stevens said.

Without the ability to interline that cargo, Anchorage becomes less attractive because the goods can't be distributed in the most efficient manner, Plumb said.

Stevens said the competition is beginning to hurt the Anchorage airport.

''Some of those planes were starting to land in Canada because they can interline in Canada,'' Stevens said.

His amendment would ensure that the foreign planes can interline code-shared cargo in Alaska. Code sharing has increased recently because the federal government chartered a number of U.S. cargo planes for use in Afghanistan and Iraq, Stevens said. The amendment would help protect those arrangements.

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