What you might see at West Seattle’s now-empty Terminal 5, as soon as March

(December 2014 photo by Long Bach Nguyen)
When the Port of Seattle‘s Terminal 5 in West Seattle shut down last July, the vast empty space visible from the bridge caused doubletakes for weeks – no ships, no containers, no trucks. The modernization project expected to put it back into use is still at least three years – and up to a quarter-billion dollars – away from completion. But the port had said it was looking for interim uses, and this Tuesday, its commission will be briefed on what is apparently its most-likely prospect: Leasing space to Foss Maritime for projects including homeporting and supplying Arctic-drilling and support vessels for Shell and handling components for an LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant planned near Prince Rupert, B.C.

The port’s been talking to Foss about this since before Terminal 5 closed last July, according to a memo by Seaport Managing Director Linda Styrk and Deputy CEO Kurt Beckett, published with the commission agenda that went online last Thursday – the T-5 details start on page 5:

The memo says the drilling support would involve homeporting eight vessels from fall through spring, until they head for summer work in Alaska, and handling equipment and supplies for the fleet.

(While the specific vessels are not mentioned, Shell vessels have come through Seattle before, for work at nearby Vigor – most notably two that had trouble later in Alaskan waters, the drill rigs Kulluk and Noble Discoverer, which were to come back in 2013 but were taken to Asia instead.)

In addition to the potential oil/gas exploration and LNG plant component work, the Port memo says, “Foss has identified additional prospects for breakbulk and bulk business” that it could add, possibly even including work for the port itself, involving helping get “… 100,000 tons of aggregates to Sea-Tac’s center runway repaving project. Vessels would deliver aggregates to T-5, where they would be transported to SeaTac International Airport over the road in a manner that would reduce air emissions and regional traffic congestion versus traditional routes.”

But to get any of this going, according to the memo, the port has to move fast, because Foss might need the space as soon as March and would need to start work ASAP on “tenant improvements” (though, as this Seattle Times report also notes, it has not yet won the contract for the LNG project). So this is all on the agenda for Tuesday’s commission meeting, 1 pm at the Sea-Tac Airport Conference Center. Commissioner Stephanie Bowman had told the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce in October that T-5 is “not going to be empty for long,” and now it appears that’s true.

P.S. The slide deck for Tuesday’s meeting also touches on the plans to deepen both waterways at Harbor Island; the timeline for that work is much further into the future, listed now as 2021-2025 for the West Waterway, which T-5 fronts.

25 Replies to "What you might see at West Seattle's now-empty Terminal 5, as soon as March"

  • GlennS January 10, 2015 (12:03 pm)

    Arctic drilling rigs? They picked the wrong port to try that stunt…

  • Wade January 10, 2015 (12:16 pm)

    Good, they need to use all of that for something. Such a waste that it currently sitting there idle.

  • dsa January 10, 2015 (12:25 pm)

    Good, we need some return on our investment.

  • DaleR January 10, 2015 (12:25 pm)

    Fascinating article in last week New York Times magazine (December 30, 2014) describing, in great detail, the incompetent and possibly criminal behavior of Shell during the Kulluk near-catastrophe.
    Vigor contributed to some of the problem, Shell and their sub-contractors contributed to the rest.
    “The Wreck of the Kulluk”. a must-read.

  • AmandaKH January 10, 2015 (12:30 pm)

    We should think about using T5 temporarily for transit staging in case of a No Tunnel, No Viaduct scenario. Hosting a corrupt company that wants to drill for oil / natural gas in Alaska is not something that the people of Seattle should allow.

  • JoB January 10, 2015 (12:32 pm)

    i am glad to see that the modernization effort has not been shelved. i was through the Panama Canal last month and finally understood why it is so important to our port to get ready for the supertankers…

  • Mark January 10, 2015 (12:53 pm)

    As a 25 year West Seattle resident this is the best news I have heard in years. What a great opportunity to grow back a large number of strong family wage waterfront jobs in our community. Way to go Foss!

  • JanS January 10, 2015 (1:18 pm)

    DaleR, WSB….I read the NYT article when it came out..interesting, indeed. Will be sure to watch the response to this proposal, as man, many will object, I’m sure.

  • West Seattleite January 10, 2015 (2:59 pm)

    Way to go Foss! Foss is a 100 year old Puget Sound based company. Would be great to see them add to the viability of the Port and provide jobs and income. For those who are against some of the companies they would be supporting, not utilizing Terminal 5 will only drive that business straight to Canada where trust me, it will be welcomed with open arms.

  • Neighbor January 10, 2015 (8:56 pm)

    Those that are cheering this blindly are supporting ecocide. The drilling in this region is not only un-necessary it is morally unjustifiable. Shell has destroyed swaths of Nigeria, the Artic is not only more dangerous, more challenging, and more complicated, the nearest recovery is over 1000 miles away.

    Shame on our port for not putting science and humanity ahead of profits.

    In order for the worst of global,warming to be held at bay fossil fuels must remain in the ground.

    There will be no jobs if the environment stops supporting humans.

  • John L. January 10, 2015 (10:57 pm)

    No one is trying to pull a stunt in OUR port. Shell or others WILL drill in the arctic, it’s only a matter of time. I say let’s support this local project to generate or keep jobs in Seattle. Jobs. You know, the thing that pays your bills, puts food on your table, etc. way to go Foss!

  • Blue collar worker January 11, 2015 (7:52 am)

    Well paying, blue collar jobs is a good thing. I support drilling in the Arctic: US energy independence.

  • Jake January 11, 2015 (8:54 am)

    I hope all the naysayers walk to work everyday (if they have a job). In addition, don’t use any plastic products (they require oil). BTW, your organic produce is brought to you by oil-burning trucks. The lumber in your house was cut using an oil burning chainsaw built in a factory whose electricity probably came from burning fossil fuels. You want to have your cake and eat it too. If this project creates jobs, pumps money into the economy, and keeps a huge swath of land from becoming a tent city, then it’s a good thing.

  • AmandaKH January 11, 2015 (9:40 am)

    Energy independence does not have to mean drilling for oil in Alaska. It should mean moving away from fossil fuels. Using the “you use oil, so we must allow drilling” is not a good enough reason to allow the affects that drilling will have on the environment. A potential No Tunnel, No Viaduct scenario is a better temporary use of T5 to mitigate traffic and is a better investment for Seattle, the region and the environment.

  • Born on Alki 59 January 11, 2015 (12:48 pm)

    This is great news. For those who believe this is “ecocide” I suggest you research LNG and CNG as an alternative fuel for large trucks and public transportation. It is the alternative fuel of the future. Remember, everything we consume is transported by truck, rail or ship. Tapping our natural gas reserves is a wise investment.

  • AmandaKH January 11, 2015 (1:11 pm)

    Fracking is polluting the middle of the country’s water supply and creating earthquakes. I would not say that is a wise investment.

  • Born on Alki 59 January 11, 2015 (4:05 pm)

    Agreed, fracking for natural gas is an ecological nightmare. This is a drilling operation that does not involve fracking. CNG and LNG are the cleanest fossil fuel options we currently have available and reduces our dependence of foreign oil. CNG use in the transportation industry will benefit everyone, as NOX and particulate emissions are nearly zero compared to a typical Diesel engine currently equipped with exhaust after treatment.

  • Darla January 11, 2015 (6:30 pm)

    Negotiate with Washington State to move the downtown ferry terminal to this location.

  • Darla January 11, 2015 (6:51 pm)

    The King County water taxi could also be run out of there.

  • Chris January 12, 2015 (8:00 pm)

    The link i included below from Climate Solutions sums it up pretty well – and provides numbers to call for folks who want to weigh in with Port Commissioners. We elect Port Commissioners – we should let them know that we DO NOT want to let Shell use our public assets to expand fossil fuel infrastructure. That Shell has the audacity to think they can come into Seattle as a base of operations for their Arctic drilling is disgusting – and to do it in my backyard pisses me off.


  • Keith January 12, 2015 (9:03 pm)

    I just called Port Commission at (206) 787-3034. The person answering said my comments could be put into the public record by e-mailing them to:
    I wrote:
    Dear Port of Seattle Commissioners,
    As a long term Seattle resident and voter I oppose Terminal 5 being used for Arctic oil exploitation or provisioning for LNG production. I support Terminal 5 being used for gravel transport on the Sea-Tac 3rd runway project.

  • seattlecris January 12, 2015 (10:51 pm)

    We could use a marina to include some liveaboard moorage.

  • Brad January 13, 2015 (1:05 pm)

    Why not turn it into a new cruise ship terminal….Lots of parking for those cruising to Alaska etc.

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