VIDEO: First cargo ship calls at newly modernized Terminal 5 in West Seattle

MSC Monterey arrived today at Terminal 5 in West Seattle, the first international-cargo ship to call there since July 2014. The expansive terminal hasn’t been idle all those years – it’s seen controversy with oil-drilling rigs as well as more-routine use such as domestic cargo via Matson – but the biggest activity has been the first phase of the half-billion-dollar “modernization” project. Now that phase of work is done and the first berth is in service. The Northwest Seaport Alliance invited news media onto the dock this morning for a quick (and soggy) look.

Two of Terminal 5’s giant cranes – which arrived last June – are being used to unload MSC Monterey; terminal operator SSA Marine‘s T-5 manager Dana Brand explained the other two aren’t in use because the carrier wants to stay a few days, rather than a quick in-and-out. This ship isn’t utilizing all of the newly opened berth’s capacity in other ways, either – for one, it’s a 6,500-TEU (container equivalent) capacity ship; a much-bigger and newer ship – MSC Virgo, 15,000 TEUs – will be here in a few weeks. That ship will use shore power, unlike this one. Also of note, this ship’s containers are all going out by truck, not by rail, though the latter will be used later this month.

Trucks move quickly through an automated gate – potentially seconds for what used to take minutes, including the efficiency of a central control for all three active Seattle terminals – 5, 18, and 30. And the second phase of T-5 work includes moving the gate complex further into the terminal, so there’s more on-dock room for queueing, taking pressure off the roads leading in. For even more efficiency, negotiations are under way toward direct ship-to-train offloading – that would require ships to be loaded in a way that groups all the containers set for a particular destination, which isn’t the way it works now.

Today’s mini-tour included key maritime-industry reps made available for media interviews. We asked Rich Austin, president of ILWU Local 19, what T-5’s opening means for his union’s local workforce, which had dozens of people working at T-5 today.

Terminal 5 now has a second berth to be modernized, and SSA has to decide whether to lease that one too. We talked with SSA Marine executive Edward DeNike and NWSA CEO John Wolfe about what’s next:

Terminal 5’s opening will take some pressure off the supply-chain backlog, DeNike acknowledged, though right now the maritime backup isn’t too bad around here – DeNike said three ships are waiting in this area, compared to more than 140 in Southern California. Prior to the berth opening, T-5 has been in use for months as extra container storage; the number of extra containers there is now down to 3,000, from a peak of 11,000.

6 Replies to "VIDEO: First cargo ship calls at newly modernized Terminal 5 in West Seattle"

  • Question Authority January 7, 2022 (9:01 pm)

    “Negotiations are underway” is code for a prolonged battle between truck drivers and train operators with street traffic volume paying the price.  Tacoma loads directly to trains and that’s why some carriers left Seattle for a more efficient home as time is money.

  • Ant January 8, 2022 (9:31 am)

    This is a huge milestone. NWSPA had some great foresight to commission a post-panamax terminal, or just maybe some really good luck. Really great for the long-term economic growth of the region.

  • StupidInSeattle January 8, 2022 (12:58 pm)

    How does the new ship, container, truck, rail traffic from T5 impact capacity along West Marginal way and the lower Spokane street bridge?  What mitigation steps have the Port of Seattle and SDOT taken to reduce, or better yet eliminate, the impact for West Seattle residents who depend on those paths to get in/out of the Peninsula?

    • Notend January 8, 2022 (7:09 pm)

       The T-5 enviro impact statement has a section on traffic mitigation. It’s done by professional traffic engineers. One of the most important mitigation steps was to close the north leg of the 5-way intersection. Both the POS and SDOT say this isn’t needed until after the high bridge is open. I’d think it would help now,,, turning that intersection into a 4-way instead of a 5-way would speed things up for sure. 

  • StupidInSeattle January 8, 2022 (8:53 pm)

    So the container trucks will use the overpass directly to the low bridge and go east to I-5 from there?  Seems like that would help West Marginal way traffic if I understand that correctly.  I am supportive of T5 and the economic benefits, it’s just that the port traffic flow is predicated on a working West Seattle freeway bridge that we lack now.  

    • Notend January 8, 2022 (10:07 pm)

      Correct. And more trains, hence the reason for closing down the north leg of the 5-way intersection. When there’s a train blocking north bound it only takes one truck waiting to go north into T-5 to block the westbound lane of WMW. Happens daily already. 

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