Why your iPad comes via Anchorage

Why your iPad comes via Anchorage

Summary: Global cargo carriers have built multi-million dollar logistics centers in Anchorage, Alaska because of its advantages in range vs. payload and spherical coordinates.


If you're tracking your iPad via Apple's order status page, you may be wondering why it travels from Shenzhen, China to Anchorage, Alaska instead of UPS' WorldPort shipping hub located in Louisville, Kentucky.

UPS and FedEx built multi-million dollar logistics centers in Anchorage, Alaska because of its advantages in range vs. payload and spherical coordinates, the shortest path between two points on a surface.

ZDNet's own Christopher Dawson researched it as part of a grad school project inspired by a new HP laptop that he tracked from Shanghai to Anchorage, then to Memphis, and finally to Boston. Sound familiar?

Remote, isolated, and largely dark for months at a time, it is hard to imagine why most companies shipping via air from Asia make a stop in Alaska... However, by applying calculus and their knowledge of great circles, FedEx found a way to increase the quantity of packages being delivered and by doing so increase revenue.

Most tech hardware, including the iPhone and iPad, that ships from the Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) in and around Shanghai ends up in Anchorage where UPS and FedEx have built major logistical hubs to expedite customs. Anchorage is attractive to shippers because 90% of the industrialized northern hemisphere can be reached within 9.5 hours from Anchorage, allowing the carriers to transport more cargo and consume less fuel.

The intermediary stop in Anchorage, as opposed to flying from Shanghai to Oakland, CA, actually increases total flight distance by around 144 miles but allows the aircraft to carry an additional 45,000kg of cargo (instead of extra fuel) increasing revenue for the trip by around $90,000.

Anchorage's prime global location combined with the growth of China's tech exports have made Alaska's Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC) the number three airport in the world for cargo traffic, surpassing Tokyo. ANC currently ranks behind only Hong Kong and Memphis (the U.S. hub for Federal Express) in air cargo worldwide.

Topics: iPad, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, iPhone, Laptops, Smartphones, Tablets, Travel Tech, China

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Thanks! That was keeping up at night. :) (nt)

    John Zern
  • Funny Jason

    You talk about the iPad and the picture you shows the date of 06/16/2009. You mean to say it could take almost a year for the iPad to arrive at its final destination. That is, if it ever leaves Alaska ? According to your picture, it hasn't left Alaska yet, still sitting there since 06/16. LOL
  • RE: Why your iPad comes via Anchorage

    I can tell the business for UPS and FedEx is on the upswing, more jets are landing and taking off from the Anchorage airport than a year ago, I live near the airport and get to hear the noise at night.
  • Transport via Anchorage

    Comment above is a bit California-centric; the mileage Shanghai to UPS' Louisville KY distribution center is 700 miles less via Anchorage than it would be via Oakland. The writer meant Shanghai-Oakland, where Oakland is the final destination. That said, I did get a bit nervous when my item "disappeared" for 5 days on routing reports after leaving Anchorage. It finally appeared at Louisville, but I don't really believe that they truck stuff on that route, and suspect the item was sequestered somewhere until Official iPad3 Release Date today.
    Still Bill