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.