TERMINAL 5: Ceremonial groundbreaking commemorates ‘a really big deal’

Story, photos, video by Tracy Record and Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers

“It’s not every day we get to break ground on a half-billion-dollar project!”

So enthused Port of Seattle Commission president Stephanie Bowman during today’s ceremonial groundbreaking event for the megaproject that will modernize West Seattle’s Terminal 5.

No ground was broken during the event, which featured a half-hour of speeches under a tent on the dock followed by participants signing one of the concrete piles that will soon be driven as part of the project to make T-5 “big ship ready.”

Here’s video of everything that preceded the signing:

The Seattle/Tacoma partnership Northwest Seaport Alliance is the entity under whose auspices the T-5 project is happening, so NWSA CEO John Wolfe emceed the by-invitation event.

It happened 5 months after the long-planned modernization project was announced as a done deal, with SSA agreeing to lease at least part of the terminal once it’s ready to go.

Both Wolfe and SSA Marine president Edward DeNike recalled the challenging negotiations that led to the deal.

DeNike also noted SSA’s leap of faith in agreeing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars: “It’s scary; you see this big terminal (and wonder) how are we going to fill it?” But business is booming, he asserted, revealing that Terminal 18 on Harbor Island had a “record gate day” just yesterday (Tuesday), handling more than 4,000 trucks in 8 hours “with no delays.”

DeNike also said SSA is ordering “the largest cranes on the West Coast” for T-5, even larger than the 165-footers that recently arrived in Tacoma; these, he said, will be 175 feet, “10 feet higher just in case.” All the dock equipment will be new, he added, declaring that T-5 “will be the showplace of the Northwest.”

Clare Petrich, Port of Tacoma Commission president, observed that the partnership with Seattle “always knew that Terminal 5 was our golden opportunity,” when they mulled how to face factors such as “unprecedented competition” from other ports as well as the widening of the Panama Canal facilitating the upsizing of container ships.

Also represented at the celebration, the longshore workers who will be loading and unloading those ships. ILWU Local 19 president Rich Austin said he worked at T-5 – whose last major cargo tenant left in 2014 – when he bought his first house and became a father. Now his 20-year-old son is a longshore worker too (Everett Local 242).

Austin said that while it’s exciting to hear that T-5’s equipment will be all new, it’s most exciting to know that the equipment will be human-powered, not automated, pointing out that those workers all contribute to their communities in many ways. He promised they’ll work to ensure that T-5 is “best in class.”

Also speaking, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, chair of the council committee that includes economic development in its portfolio:

She said it’s important for the city’s job base to not rely too heavily on one sector (such as tech), and mentioned the long-running importance of a strong maritime industry here. She also thanked the port officials for working with her to address constituent concerns about the project’s impacts. She also touted its environmental advances, as did Seattle Port Commissioner Fred Felleman in a conversation with us afterward. While shore power is not mandated, he pointed out that the percentage of shore-power-capable ships among the vessels expected to use the new terminal is already up to 65+% and that’s likely to grow. He also said legislation allowing Seattle City Light to negotiate rates will help encourage more use. Speaking of legislation, State Sen. Joe Nguyen was also there:

(The umbrellas were distributed by NWSA pre-ceremony, when the rain refused to stop for the occasion.) The senator told us he’s already working on a plethora of issues for next session, but that’s another story. The T-5 event concluded with coffee and cake, and mingling:

WHAT’S NEXT: NWSA’s Anne Porter says that within a few weeks, they hope to start some dock demolition. The major work, including pile-driving, can’t begin until the window for allowing in-water work opens in mid-August. The first phase of the project is expected to conclude in 2021, and that’s when international shipping will resume at T-5. Until then, domestic shipper Matson remains the interim tenant.

13 Replies to "TERMINAL 5: Ceremonial groundbreaking commemorates 'a really big deal'"

  • Sillygoose July 10, 2019 (6:49 pm)

    This to me is sad. Money mongers who have no respect for anything but filling their pockets. These shops are destroying our bay and whales. Disgusting

  • MrB July 10, 2019 (10:17 pm)

    Don’t forget, as a taxpayer, you are subsidising these companies doing business at the Port.  To put it another way, taxpayers are forced to pay corporate welfare.  Its a scam.  It needs to end.  If the Port can’t function on the fees it collects then it should be closed down.  Imagine what could be done with all that property.  

    • Bob Lang July 11, 2019 (4:35 am)

      50k regional jobs are based off the port.  Must be nice to not have to work for a living.  If we Don’t fund thebport they go away.  

      • metromiss July 22, 2019 (6:28 pm)

        And where did that 50K number come from? Every time job numbers are used to support this wasteful spending it is a different number and not sourced. One of the reasons that the Port does not want to make shore power mandatory is that they do not want to pay the Longshoremen to plug in the ship to the shore power.Bottom line is taxpayers are funding an unnecessary expansion for a shipping industry that has poor projections for growth or sustainability. Do the research and you will find that projections for global shipping are negative. These super size ships will do more harm to orcas and sea life in addition to polluting the air with the diesel from ships and the additional truck traffic.  That our government will allow these super ships to even enter Elliott Bay means that they have no regard for the environment. For all that think it will only affect West Seattle they are sadly mistaken. Winds usually come from the S/SW and will blow the muck over to the stadium area and downtown.

    • LK July 11, 2019 (8:31 am)

      The anti port rhetoric can stop.  Do you buy everything made in the USA?  Much as we’d all like to , it’s just not possible.  Go ahead, try it.  Also, as Bob pointed out, this will provide many well paying jobs. You’d rather see them all go to Tacoma or Portland?

    • wscommuter July 11, 2019 (8:47 am)

      What wonderful logic … unless something is 100% self-funding, we shouldn’t do it for the greater good.  Couple of questions for you MRB … do you ever ride a bus?  Go to the zoo?  Among the many other government investments that does not completely self-fund, which do you propose eliminating?  

  • SUDS July 11, 2019 (8:14 am)

    You’re stating an obvious fact of business in this country. It’s not unique nor unusual. I’m neither agreeing or disagreeing, but shouldn’t you be posting the same statement whenever there’s an article about a street being rebuilt, upgraded power infrastructure installed or tax incentives provided for distressed properties to be rebuilt?

  • Pete July 11, 2019 (9:19 am)

    I don’t see how this is corporate welfare if the Stevedoring company is not only paying rent to use the facility, but also investing hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade cranes and other infrastructure.   Years ago the taxpayers would pay for everything on the terminal and the stevedoring company would pay a lease for all of it – still a good deal for the taxpayers as effective landlords.  This is actually even more beneficial to the taxpayers than it used to be.   We forget about how much commerce these ports bring to the region and the jobs created because of it.   Not only are goods coming in and going to distribution warehouses in the area that are big employers, but the port is a direct conduit for exports going out from the interior of the state, so it benefits folks that are hundreds of miles inland as well.   So everyone take a breath and look at the big picture.  

  • Jim July 11, 2019 (9:22 am)

    MRB – You are correct.  Every homeowner trying to keep their house and pay their rising property taxes should realize that the Port of Seattle subsidy is in there.  Pay attention as the Port increases their share of your money they take for their plans.  And vote accordingly.

  • anonyme July 11, 2019 (9:55 am)

    As usual, everything is about money.  I also highly doubt that 50,000 jobs are tied to the Port expansion.  This marks nothing less than the death of Puget Sound.   You can kill all the sea lions you want, but opening the sound to this level of traffic will assuredly devastate salmon populations and the species that depend on them – including orca.  Say goodbye to J-pod.

  • MJ July 11, 2019 (6:02 pm)

    T5 was an active port in the past and will be active again in the near future.  Seattle is a port City!  What do people think the T5 land is for?

  • Chris July 11, 2019 (6:33 pm)

    We are concerned about the impact this will have on West Seattle re traffic on Harbor/Alki and noise coming from this site into the neighborhoods in area…….

    • Keri July 12, 2019 (10:47 pm)

      Same question as Chris. There is already a fight with the trucks in traffic every day. I can only imagine this will have a higher impact. Is there an infrastructure and traffic plan to deal with this? Any plan to shift more to train? 

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