FOLLOWUP: Closer look at Terminal 5’s newly arrived cranes, and current construction

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

One day after Terminal 5‘s four big new cranes arrived from China, port managers gave us and other media a close-up look. While at T-5, we talked with construction managers about the status of the nine-digit dock-modernization project on West Seattle’s eastern shore.

But first, the most frequently asked question: How and when are they taking the 316-foot cranes off heavy-lift ship Zhen Hua 36? SSA, the T-5 north-berth tenant – and the cranes’ owner – says they’ll be rolled off starting Wednesday and, if all goes well, finishing Saturday.

While we were there this morning, crews were working to cut the cranes free of the supports to which they’d been welded for the cross-Pacific journey.

You’ve probably heard a few stats about the cranes. Here are a few more. T-5 handled cargo until 2014, and the tallest cranes it had previously had a “lift over rail” of 115 feet – compared to 175 feet for the new ones – and a reach of 145 feet, compared to 240 feet for the new ones. Take a look up at them with us:

Which shipping lines will those cranes serve first when SSA opens T-5’s north berth early next year? SSA’s Bob Watters, there today for media Q&A, said that hasn’t been decided yet.

The company deals with all the major lines at its terminals around the world; this terminal will be “ready for the next generation of vessels.” Much of the north-berth work is complete; a major task under way now, as we saw this morning, is paving.

We spoke there with construction manager Jonathan Ohta, who talked about the challenges they’ve faced during the project – the paving’s been one of them, as they’re integrating new construction with the old terminal, and that’s meant grade differentials which in turn have resulted in drainage difficulties.

The past few days’ major rainfall left evidence of that, with serious puddling in spots.

Other technical challenges resulted when crews discovered unanticipated conditions. And in-water work has required waiting for “fish windows” – for example, to drive piles for a new “toe wall” along the berth (an “underwater retaining wall,” Ohta explained) they needed to order a special type of pile driver unlike any used before. The pile-driving has to wait for the next “fish window” in August; that will be followed, if all proceeds as planned in the permitting process, with dredging to make the water at the berth five feet deeper (55′ compared to the current 50′).

Ohta said a major point of pride has been continuing work throughout the pandemic while maintaining rigorous COVID safety standards. Right now, the north berth is on track for “substantial completion” by year’s end. The south-berth work is already under way, too.

Some parts of the project are serving both berths, like the new electricity infrastructure, so ships will be able to plug in to shore power.

The most-recent timeline estimates, beyond the north berth’s opening early next year, include opening the south berth by the end of next year, and completing the dredging by March of 2023. The project is under the auspices of the Northwest Seaport Alliance – the joint Seattle-Tacoma port authority – whose managing members (port commissioners) are scheduled to get the next major project briefing at their July 6th meeting.

13 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Closer look at Terminal 5's newly arrived cranes, and current construction"

  • Eric June 14, 2021 (7:42 pm)

    Will they be up and running before the West Seattle Bridge is repaired? And can the lower bridge handle the increased weight of more trucks or will they use the lower road? Sorry, if this has already been discussed. Nice to see them using that port again… maybe we can get some of our business back from Portland. 

  • Concerned Neighbor June 14, 2021 (8:30 pm)

     Do you think traffic in/out of West Seattle is bad now?  Wait until the trucks start lining up to go in/out of West Seattle to Terminal 5.  They line up now, and it will get worse.   Currently there are alot of things that aren’t coming in due to Covid restrictions, etc…  (e.g. appliances, car chips, etc…)  I hope there is something in the planning of this to include more lanes for traffic.  

  • Flo B June 14, 2021 (8:38 pm)

    WSB. Any word if the July 6th meeting  will include SDOT giving an update on the high bridge repairs?

    • WSB June 14, 2021 (8:40 pm)

      This is a port meeting. They generally don’t hear from other entities, though if there’s a significant update it might be in a staff briefing for the commissioners. That aside, we won’t know what’s on the agenda until a week or so in advance.

  • Peter S. June 14, 2021 (8:52 pm)

    Keeping bride impacts out of the discussion for the moment, and politics (with China) aside, these are huge structures and successfully moving them from floating platform to pier without mishap is a huge engineering challenge which should be admired.   Yes, I know it’s been done before (and here), but still…  Not a trivial exercise. 

    • HarborIslandWorker June 14, 2021 (9:45 pm)

      Peter S. ….. Harbor Island Workers Who live in West Seattle / can’t use a low bridge to get back in the west Seattle anymore / T5 traffic plus terminal 18 traffic / demolition and reconstruction of terminal 106..One of our direct routes off of Harbor Island now. Tell me how this is fair to a west Seattle resident who works on Harbor Island when we weren’t even part of the hundred thousand commuters that used the west Seattle Bridge….? We are stuck in the middle of all this and nothing from the port of Seattle or Seattle department of transportation… no compromise nothing.

      • Peter S. June 15, 2021 (9:08 am)

        Sorry HIW, either you missed my point or I wasn’t very clear.   There’s no debating how frustrating your commuting situation must be.  (Harbor Island.  So close and yet so far.)  My wife is a downtown ferry commuter and has been impacted by terminal and other waterfront construction, and now the bridge FOR YEARS.  So, you have my empathy.   Trucks already back up from I-5 to Harbor Island, sometimes completely blocking the Spokane St. exit.  A reopened terminal will undoubtedly exacerbate the Harbor Island access situation from either end until the high-level bridge is reopened.   The timing is truly unfortunate.  My point was moving these massive structures from ship to land without mishap is a delicate dance where one misstep or miscalculation could be disastrous and expensive.  That’s all. 

  • Insertname June 14, 2021 (10:13 pm)

    This is all quite impressive. Thanks for the in-depth coverage. 

  • Sweetiebee June 14, 2021 (11:47 pm)

    These harbor projects seem intelligent and fairly well- planned, well organized and timely. Can the port take over the wsb work and traffic issues?

    • Joe Z June 15, 2021 (8:31 am)

      It took them 7 years from planning to completion…West Seattle Bridge in 2027???

  • Joe Z June 15, 2021 (8:33 am)

    Looking forward to cheaper prices on my Amazon purchases once this thing is up and running! 

  • 4 orca mammas June 15, 2021 (9:39 am)

    Impressive indeed.

    Humans are capable of envisioning, building, and coordinating impressive things.

    Unfortunately, human innovation and industry has resulted in impressive problems too, such as an urgent climate crisis, and imperiling naturally impressive things, like our Resident Southern Orcas, who call our Salish Sea and Puget Sound waters home.

    Are humans impressive enough to fix what we have broken? To save what can still be saved?

    In the wild, orca whales are not known to kill humans.  But we are killing them.

    June is Orca Action Month in our state.  There are a number of speaking and learning events and activities, for kids and adults, check it out!

    This video isn’t of our resident orcas, but it is cool nonetheless, and hope some of you enjoy it too:

  • Graciano June 15, 2021 (2:07 pm)

    I’d like to see how these are off loaded, hopefully someone will post the video.

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