Despite Hanjin trouble, Port of Seattle insists Terminal 5 modernization is ‘vital’

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(July aerial of West Seattle with Terminal 5 at left, shared by David)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The news of shipping line Hanjin, a major Port of Seattle customer, filing for the equivalent of bankruptcy in its home country, South Korea, has sparked renewed discussion about the nine-digit-price-tag plan to modernize West Seattle’s Terminal 5.

Is the project really necessary, amid the turmoil in the shipping industry, with the port operating without T-5 for more than two years now? We put that question to the Northwest Seaport Alliance, the entity formed a year ago by the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

First, the latest on how Hanjin’s receivership filing on Wednesday is affecting the Port of Seattle:

Hanjin has one vessel scheduled each week at T-46, and has a majority stake in its operator, Total Terminals International. On Thursday, the T-46 website said that as of 2 pm Wednesday, it “will no longer perform Hanjin gate transactions (receiving/delivery) until further notice.” Today, that message changed to “Hanjin gate transactions – TTI is now open for import delivery, still not receiving empty units.”

The next Hanjin vessel due here is Hanjin Scarlet, originally scheduled for tomorrow morning, but as of this writing, it remains anchored off Prince Rupert – 572 nautical miles north of here – according to; the port says it was sent directly to anchorage upon arrival on Tuesday night and they’re trying to figure out what to do next.

The trouble isn’t sudden, according to this report. But it raises questions, since T-46 got modernization money from the feds two years ago, two years after Hanjin extended its Port of Seattle lease until 2025.

Meanwhile, the port is currently in the environmental-review phase of its proposed modernization plan for West Seattle’s Terminal 5 – a process that it originally planned to bypass, by declaring the project environmentally non-significant, until nearby residents took issue. In October of last year, the port announced that conversations with potential tenants had led it to agree that a full environmental review was needed.

This week, our questions about the status of the project, and the port’s position on it, were answered by Tara Mattina, communications director for the Northwest Seaport Alliance, whose website notes that Hanjin also calls at two Tacoma terminals. She says Hanjin vessels called 58 times at T-46 last year and 35 times year-to-date in 2016.

Despite Hanjin’s trouble and other industry travails, Mattina says, the NWSA is sticking by its vision of T-5’s future: “The modernization of Terminal 5 remains a vital part of the alliance strategic business plan, and will ensure our gateway is strongly positioned for the future. Shipping industry challenges are fierce but U.S. manufacturers, consumers and exporters still have goods to move and the health of our economy relies upon these terminals. The alliance will rely on a sound financial plan for Terminal 5, and the larger, ongoing needs of the U.S. economy, including Washington exporters, will be a driver in making that possible.”

Some West Seattleites remain opposed to/concerned about the expansion/improvement project. Just this morning, East Admiral resident Marti Casey had e-mailed WSB, saying she hoped this situation would cast renewed light on the proposal: “In light of the recent news about the bankruptcy of Hanjin and the global slowdown in shipping it is difficult to comprehend how any expansion of Terminal 5 is a responsible use of taxpayer money. I hope that the recent news and the downward trends in global shipping will inspire all parties involved in this project to reconsider how funds could be better allocated to serve their constituents with necessary and environmentally responsible projects.”

Potential resolution of the environmental concerns raised are dependent upon who the eventual tenant is; Mattina tells WSB they are still in talks with potential tenants – no one signed yet. The port/NWSA has said, for example, that use of shore power will be tenant-dependent – that’s a critical issue for air-pollution concerns raised by nearby residents.

As for the ongoing environmental-review process, Mattina says the final environmental-impact statement is expected “this fall,” no date yet, as “additional analysis and response work continues on the various agency and citizen questions raised in the draft EIS comment period.” (Some of those questions were raised at two public hearings in June – our coverage of the first one is here, the second one here.) The project also continues going through the city permit process; another public-comment period concluded one week ago, and you can see the comment letters, along with other project documents/communications, by going here.

SIDE NOTE: The modernization project is expected to be a big topic when the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce‘s monthly lunch meeting focuses on the “State of the Port” next Thursday at port-owned Jack Block Park, with speakers including NWSA deputy CEO Kurt Beckett, who is a lead on the modernization project and spoke to the WS Transportation Coalition last May, and port commissioner John Creighton. (Registration and fee are required for the event – more info here.)

19 Replies to "Despite Hanjin trouble, Port of Seattle insists Terminal 5 modernization is 'vital'"

  • Jon Wright September 2, 2016 (3:22 pm)

    I would have more respect for NIMBYs if they were honest about the reasons for their opposition to something instead of trying to claim they are just trying to be fiscally responsible, etc.

    • Marti September 6, 2016 (8:54 pm)

      Darn straight I am a NIMBY as everybody should be about this expansion that will mean people at sporting events at Century Link and SAFECO will be breathing the greatly increased polluted air with the prevailing south to southwest winds. People living in East Admiral, north Admiral  will  be affected by noise levels over the city limits. All of West Seattle will be affected by the increased traffic of the hundreds of trucks a day leaving the expanded terminal. This expansion should not be undertaken right on top of a high density residential area and is not appropriate or necessary for the city of Seattle.

  • wetone September 2, 2016 (5:26 pm)

    If such a great deal why does port need our tax dollars to build ? So many unanswered questions and impacts. Who’s paying for new rail bridge over Duwamish, associated RR track work, street improvements and alignments to handle big rig and commuter traffic ?  More levy’s and tax increases ? Only pencils out for Port because their using tax payers money. Your right I am fiscally responsible as Port and city have been terrible the last few years and continue sliding down hill. If I’m not fiscally responsible I’d lose my home and much more. Levy and tax increases have outpased income increase for most in this city. There’s lots of new large money, but that doesn’t help me. Tired of subsidizing one of the largest subsidized ports in US and giving money to city to spend wastefully….

    • Chris September 2, 2016 (10:10 pm)

      The Port is a public entity – so every dollar is public money.

      • Mike September 3, 2016 (1:55 am)

        @Chris, it’s not the same as our city council or mayor.  They get to keep the money they get in profits, it’s not going back into a general fund.

  • dale September 2, 2016 (7:02 pm)

    There has been a slow down in container traffic for awhile now. There is overcapacity fir ships and rates are much lower then 24 months ago. Those huge ships that we are modernizing our Port for will never show. It reminds me of the Concord. 

  • Duwamesque September 2, 2016 (7:12 pm)

    Dredging the waters off Terminal 5 would invariably kick up toxic chemicals that settled underneath the seafloor long ago. There’s no way of expanding the terminal without polluting local waters. What are the benefits for the community really? More potential dollars for the Port of Seattle mainly, which was so environmentally conscious they invited Shell’s arctic drilling fleet to lease the space. Port of Seattle is interested in greasing the wheels of international trade, not protecting local waters.

  • Fred Johnson September 2, 2016 (8:04 pm)

    Port of Tacoma is already working on getting set up to handle the super carriers. Since the two ports are now one operating entity, there are very few logical reasons to move forward with the currently planned improvements at T-5.

  • Mike Baker September 2, 2016 (8:19 pm)

    There are no market pressure signs that there is unsatisfied demand for this.

    Is the port turning away ships? Raising prices?

    That’s no, and no.

  • dale September 2, 2016 (9:21 pm)

    Korean banks pulled the plug on the 7th largest shipping firm. They will be liquidated. Why, rates for shipping have dropped by 50% or more since 2010. No growth in trade and 30% excess capacity. Ships that have been ordered have been cancelled, ask the Korean Shipbuilders. Yet we insist its Vital. Huh? Many more firms are owed huge amounts of money by Hanjin, with over 5 billion in debt. It may take them several years to get paid. These big ships are scarce and are like Triumph, are not a shape of things to come. 

  • rob September 2, 2016 (9:25 pm)

     one good reason is construction jobs you know the blue collar workers

    • Mike September 3, 2016 (1:56 am)

      How exactly is dredging related to construction jobs?

    • flimflam September 3, 2016 (9:41 am)

      there really isn’t any good reason for doing unnecessary projects.

  • steve September 3, 2016 (7:26 pm)

    Former West Seattleite so no dog in the fight now.  With rail lines running into T-5 it should be the most efficient and rid us of all the trucks that have to haul the containers to the other side of A;asian Way.  But it hasn’t been used in 2 years and I seldom see more than 2 ships in at a time so what is the need?  Guess the Port has so much money from the rising property values that they have to spend it.  They should concentrate on SeaTac since previous groups ignored it and didn’t fund things like expanding the International terminal.  Delta has had to put having more Asian flights on hold and the way Alaska is expanding that capacity is needed.

  • Lola September 4, 2016 (12:38 pm)

    I thought I had read somewhere that the Port Terminal 5 had a relationship with the Port of Tacoma now?  I know that they have been re-vamping some of T-5 to take on other projects so it does not just sit Idle. 

    • WSB September 4, 2016 (12:42 pm)

      As mentioned in the story, the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma have joined forces as the Northwest Seaport Alliance. That doesn’t mean anything different for T-5, though. They did lease out part of it to Foss Maritime, which in turn had Shell vessels as part of the anticipated offshore drilling in the Arctic, but as you might recall, Shell scrapped its drilling plan. We were pretty much alone in reporting the departure of the last Shell-related vessels back in June. Foss’s spokesperson told us at the time they were still looking for other things to do at T-5, but we haven’t seen any vessels of any size in since the June departures. – TR

  • JIm September 4, 2016 (1:18 pm)

    >>>The port/NWSA has said, for example, that use of shore power will be tenant-dependent <<<

    That is a very misleading statement.  As the landlord owning the property, the Port/NWSA can dictate the terms of the lease and require the use of shore power while the ships are docked.

    What they are really saying is that they are willing to sacrifice the health and well-being of the terminal workers and the community in order to attract the polluting business that isn’t welcomed at the other (green) West Coast Ports.

  • David September 5, 2016 (6:23 pm)

    Stop the madness! It’s our city and our money and we should have a say! No to any building until we have a commitment from a tenant. As a taxpayer, if I need to put one dime into this, I want a return on my investment.

  • pat davis September 5, 2016 (8:40 pm)

    More and more people are not seeing the value of over 1/4  B…..BILLION  tax payer dollars to build T-5.  One truck every minute?  Did you know that the emission standards for these trucks are only at 1994 levels?  INSANE !  Massive more TRAINS 24/7 and their unregulated (means we can’t get intervention on train engine diesel smoke and the are super nasty toxins) engines. TUGS (which bring the ships in – about 40 min. task ) are also UNREGULATED  engines – which emit extremely heavy duty toxic diesel. The Environmental Impact Statement expects complete gridlock at the Chelan Cafe intersection and they wonder if closing down auto traffic along W. Marginal/Chelan would help.   Hello? how do we get home? What about T-5 being a new location for the water taxi? comuter parking?  After all: it is public land.  Add to that 1 – 2 years of construction: dislodging of air and land toxins and harm to air and fish.  All this when the existing terminals are not being fully used and that shipping world wide is slow.  It is NOT ‘build it and they will come’.  It is big shipping companies trying to crush smaller ones with giant ships.  In fact “super ships” create stress on longshore (too many containers all at once) labor….and puts massive stress on our road ways…..crushing our already disgusting traffic flow….and then little/nothing until another giant ship?  Don’t buy the lie.  One person wrote that the Port of Seattle CAN  REQUIRE  SHORE  POWER ( at any and all Terminals ) via Lease Agreement. Come on Port/Seaport Alliance:  stop the lies.  Stop the manipulation.  The Port is unconcerned about the health of our population, the land, the water and the air:  period.  It’s big $ and abuse of power.  Please help protect W Seattle (in case we get stuck with T-5) and sign the petition at  which strives to protect our community.  Hopefully the West Seattle chamber of commerce does right by our citizens here and doesn’t get ‘carried away’ by the lies.   

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