TERMINAL 5: Biggest ship yet, but still not using shore power

Almost a month and a half after modernized Terminal 5 opened for international cargo shipping, it has yet to use a major feature of that modernization – shore power. We visited T-5 this morning as the largest vessel yet, MSC Virgo, was being unloaded:

Virgo is 1,200 feet long, with a capacity of 15,000 TEUs, the second-biggest ship ever to be served by the Northwest Seaport Alliance (the joint cargo authority of the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma) – the biggest was CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, the 18,000-TEU megaship that made a much-celebrated visit six years ago at Terminal 18 on Harbor Island. So why isn’t MSC Virgo using shore power? NWSA spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh says it’s a labor issue that terminal operator SSA is working on: “Currently, labor parties are negotiating the use of shore power equipment on the terminal and usage will be determined when negotiations are complete.” Meantime, what are literally the biggest aspects of the modernization work, the four giant cranes, are working well, Stambaugh says.

Some of the cargo brought in by Virgo will be transported away by rail, another key operational advantage of T-5. NWSA says there’s no ship backup currently here, but Canada still has issues, so it’s expecting to see more cargo that was originally intended to be offloaded there – a “huge win” as described at the most-recent NWSA managing-members meeting. Virgo, meantime, will be here until Monday; the shipping schedule changes frequently but you can watch it here to see what’s next.

29 Replies to "TERMINAL 5: Biggest ship yet, but still not using shore power"

  • Bill February 18, 2022 (1:45 pm)

    I’m glad you mentioned on shore power because these ships generate a tremendous amount of air pollution in West Seattle (equivalent to thousands of trucks driving through our neighborhoods). The ships and rail cars also generate a lot of noise pollution (low frequency rumbling) that nobody talks about. The other day, I noticed a couple BNSF train engines that were idling for hours in the same spot in T5 producing a lot of rumbling noise and air pollution.

    • WsJunction February 19, 2022 (6:26 am)

      North end of the Junction and hearing that low rumble sound for the last hour or so :(

  • Delridge Neighbor February 18, 2022 (1:48 pm)

    Mmm, the sweet, sweet smell of diesel particulates.

  • Ron Swanson February 18, 2022 (1:58 pm)

    I expect the negotiation can be summed up with a variation on a classic line “How many ILWU members does it take to plug in a cable?”

    (I kid, longshoremen! Thanks for keeping the supply chain moving!)

  • Peter February 18, 2022 (2:11 pm)

    “Currently, labor parties are negotiating the use of shore power equipment on the terminal and usage will be determined when negotiations are complete.”  This is nonsense. The “labor parties” need to do their job and plug it in. 

    • My two cents February 18, 2022 (6:06 pm)

      Peter what incentive does either side have for utilizing shore power? You cannot rely upon altruistic behavior alone to guide things.  If you want movement, apply pressure to both sides to address the issue.

      • Peter February 18, 2022 (9:21 pm)

        There is no “both sides” to this. The shore power is available, the unions are refusing to hook it up. The unions and only the unions are preventing these ships from using shore power. The unions are actively and intentionally harming both the environment and the health of the community by refusing to do their jobs. 

    • 22blades February 19, 2022 (6:08 pm)

      Maybe POS should have thought about the “Human Resources” side of things years ago when they started this project. You wouldn’t expect any well-run business to offer services without an enforceable contract covering everything. If it’s not in writing, it’s ripe for abuse. Another POS fail.

      • WSB February 19, 2022 (6:54 pm)

        This is an SSA (terminal operator) issue, not the Northwest Seaport Alliance (which is leasing T-5 to SSA). Sorry, I didn’t include this line from the NWSA statement: “Terminal 5 is leased to SSA Terminals and the marine terminal operator is responsible for determining shore power use at the terminal.” – I thought that went without saying. Anyway, I ran out of time to follow up with SSA, which did not have a rep at the dock for the photo op, but am planning to do so on Monday. – TR

  • Mj February 18, 2022 (3:34 pm)

    I would think hooking up to shore power would be cheaper than operating on diesel?  

  • Derek February 18, 2022 (3:35 pm)

    Good ol pollution!!! Woooooo!

    • My two cents February 18, 2022 (6:03 pm)

      Derek how do you propose addressing the labor negotiations for the two sides?

      • Jack February 18, 2022 (6:41 pm)

        Too many times have longshoremen caused major disruptions with petty hissyfits. Man up and use shore power to protect our residents from unnecessary air pollution. Perhaps they are threatened by shore power because it is one step closer to the automation that will ultimately replace them.

      • Auntie February 18, 2022 (6:43 pm)

        My guess is that, once again, it is a jurisdictional dispute between ILWU and IBEW as to whose work it is and they need to get a grip and figure it out quickly. Labor is its own worst enemy. (Speaking from over 30 years experience in the labor movement – I’ve seen it all and wonder why “we can’t just all get along.”) 

  • Neal February 18, 2022 (4:31 pm)

    The ship in port last weekend, as seen from a bit smaller boat. .  

  • CarDriver February 18, 2022 (6:13 pm)

    WSB. Any freight truck clogging issues on the low bridge with this ship??

    • WSB February 18, 2022 (7:01 pm)

      Haven’t seen or heard of any so far – but we were out in the field much of today so I didn’t get a chance to do spot checks on the bridge cam. Since some of this cargo was going out by rail, it was being moved to holding zones by on-dock trucks while we were there, rather than a steady stream of independent outbound truckers.

    • bill February 18, 2022 (10:36 pm)

      As a cyclist who crosses the bridge frequently, the increase in truck traffic, noise, and air pollution is marked. The major jam-ups I see are at the Spokane & E Marginal intersection where truckers regularly fail to clear the intersection.

      • HarborIslandworker February 19, 2022 (11:56 am)

        Bill…”I agree with You” the added congestion and exhaust pollution. Are dangerous and downright unhealthy for our bicycling community. Too bad they’re sending 90 people that don’t need to go that direction that way causing more congestion and pollution while my truck idols behind semi‘s. 🤷🏻‍♂️

  • Derrick February 18, 2022 (10:02 pm)

    Is there any movement on making modifications to the intersections that the trains travel to allow them to not blast the dang horn at all hours of the night? The noise is super obnoxious and disruptive. 

    • WSB February 18, 2022 (10:30 pm)

      The so-called “quiet zone” is a year or so away.

  • bill February 18, 2022 (10:38 pm)

    So will this “huge win” translate into a win for taxpayers: A reduction in the Port’s property tax levy? Yeah, I didn’t think so. 

  • anonyme February 19, 2022 (6:07 am)

    Once again the environment is sacrificed to greed and petty politics.  Shore power should be mandatory.

  • For orca mammas February 19, 2022 (9:44 am)

    I’m so concerned for our resident orca whales. Do they feel how endangered they are, as they fight and struggle to locate enough food every day? How stressful is it for them to see and hear even larger ships/obstacles in their waters? They might be asking, are you kidding, don’t our human friends see and care about what is happening to us?

    • For human Mamas February 19, 2022 (11:48 am)

      I wonder if the humans understand how crippled the American economy is as it struggles for essential components? How stressful is it for them to watch inflation continue to accelerate? They must be asking, how much privilege must one have that they think Orcas are more important than families struggling to make ends meet?

      • anonyme February 19, 2022 (12:56 pm)

        Humans have choices: lots of them.  For one, they have the choice to not breed beyond the planet’s capacity to provide.  They have the choice to live in a sustainable way, one that does not destroy the environment and squander precious resources.   The human species is a ravenous parasite devouring everything in sight; an orca asks only to swim and eat and to carefully raise their young one at a time.  If they survive, that is.  How many meals have you or yours gone without recently?  Your comment is the very epitome of privilege, and your suggestion that the death of a species is inconsequential next to the greed-driven human invention of economic inflation is nothing short of nauseating.

      • For orca mammas February 19, 2022 (3:47 pm)

        It is a stressful time for people, for families, for workers.

        Just because someone is concerned for an endangered species, doesn’t make them not concerned for people. In fact, being concerned for orcas, benefits people too.

        Issues of pollution, endangered salmon, and losing a local species, our unique community of orca whales, all have impacts for people, and those with less privilege may be more impacted by these issues as well. I think of native people, and their concern for orcas, and salmon, and the sea.

        Now that we are more aware of the impacts of some of our industries, we must find paths forward to change things for the better, or we will lose things like orcas, and salmon, and ultimately our planet. And then concerns of inflation will not matter.

  • whalewatcher February 20, 2022 (1:31 pm)

    Does this mean the jackhammering is done?

    • WSB February 20, 2022 (1:35 pm)

      The second (south) berth remains under construction for most of the rest of this year.

Sorry, comment time is over.