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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.

VIDEO: ‘Historic day’ as two new Port of Seattle Commissioners take office

A “historic day” for the Port of Seattle Commission – with Commissioners Toshiko Grace Hasegawa and Hamdi Mohamed taking office today, the commission has its first People of Color majority. The five-member commission’s other POC member, Sam Cho, was elected today as commission vice president, while Ryan Calkins will serve as president, and Hasegawa as secretary. Calkins was the only incumbent re-elected in November; the other two who were on the ballot were defeated by Hasegawa and Mohamed. The two new commissioners spoke to news media this morning, before the commission’s regular monthly meeting. Hasegawa said it’s “our responsibility to address the generations of environmental harm,” while Mohamed voiced priorities including “addressing the root causes of the supply-chain crisis.” We asked both about how they plan to be more accessible to their constituents (commissioners are elected in a countywide vote). Mohamed promised “listening sessions, town halls” and a “boots on the ground” presence in the community, while Hasegawa promised to be “authentically engaging” and to work to close the “equity gap.” Both also spoke of advocating for a new generation to join the maritime workforce, which is facing a ‘silver tsunami,” as Hasegawa put it, of retirements.

The imminent opening of cargo operations at Terminal 5‘s first modernized berth in West Seattle (with the first ship calling later this week, as we ” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>first reported Monday) was briefly mentioned – Hasegawa called it “exciting,” while Calkins described it as one of the “investments we’e been making (that) are starting to pay off.” During the commission meeting this afternoon, port executive director Steve Metruck noted that the first phase of T-5 construction officially concluded just last week.

TERMINAL 5: First cargo-ship call scheduled for this week

(Wikimedia file photo of MSC Monterey)

MONDAY MORNING: We’ve been watching for word of the first cargo-ship call at the first modernized berth at West Seattle’s Terminal 5, and it’s just appeared on the newest Northwest Seaport Alliance calendar update: MSC Monterey is due at Terminal 5 on Thursday afternoon (January 6th). The schedule also shows MSC Margarita scheduled for T-5 two weeks later. Monterey, built in 2007, carries up to 5,000 containers (TEU); Margarita is slightly older and slightly larger, with a capacity of up to 6,000 containers. (That’s about a third of the potential capacity the revamped berth was designed to handle.) According to MarineTraffic.com, Monterey’s last port was Manzanillo, Mexico, from which it departed one week ago. We may hear more about T-5 when the Port of Seattle Commission meets online at noon tomorrow; that’ll be the first meeting for its newly elected commissioners Toshiko Grace Hasegawa and Hamdi Mohamed.

TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE: The schedule has changed (as, with ships, it often does) and MSC Monterey is now due in Friday morning.

THURSDAY MORNING: Online ‘State of the Port’ presentation

December 8, 2021 8:53 pm
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 |   Port of Seattle | West Seattle news

Just got word of this from the Port of Seattle tonight, and it’s in the morning, so it’ll be too late for our reminder list, and therefore we’re publishing the announcement now:

This year, the Port of Seattle marks 110 years of working for the people of King County and Washington state. Join us as we reflect on this milestone, recognize the efforts this year to help lead an equitable recovery, and set our sights on 2022. Participants include Port Commissioners and Executive Director Steve Metruck. The presentation features community events and accomplishments from throughout the year. More on our event page.

Date: Thursday, December 9, 2021
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. — Virtual Presentation
Join the Virtual Presentation Here
Call in Option (Audio Only)
+15717484021
Pin: 149 1850#

If you can’t watch live, we’re told a recording will be published later in the day.

PORT: Congestion easing, but Northwest Seaport Alliance hopes to get more containers moving

December 7, 2021 9:35 pm
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 |   Port of Seattle | West Seattle news

(WSB photo, view from West Seattle Bridge last week)

The maritime links in the supply chain are loosening, port commissioners from Seattle and Tacoma were told today. Meeting as the managing members of the Northwest Seaport Alliance, they heard from staff that rail-cargo backups have cleared, and that fewer vessels are waiting at anchor. The latter numbers had been in double digits daily for a while, but are now “5 to 7 on a typical day.” The biggest chokepoint, as described in the briefing, remains getting trucks to transport containers off the docks. Containers are covering a relatively sizable amount of space at docks, including 50 acres at Terminal 46 along the south end of downtown Seattle. So they’re looking at a variety of ways to try to address that, including using short-distance rail to get containers off the docks, and charging “long-stay” fees. The NWSA sent a notice about storage charges two weeks ago – from that notice:

… As with other ports on the West Coast who either have already implemented additional storage charges or will soon be doing so, the failure of importers picking up their containers in a timely manner has created severe congestion issues that has prevented terminal operators from properly servicing vessels destined for their terminals. We sincerely hope the additional storage charge will encourage cargo owners to pick up their containers which will allow the terminals in Seattle to again properly service vessels destined to our port and once that has been accomplished, the temporary storage charges will cease….

The opening of the first modernized berth at West Seattle’s Terminal 5 is expected to take more pressure off the vessel backlog; no date’s been announced yet for the first ship to call, but NWSA spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh tells WSB, “At this time, the NWSA is set to transfer operation of Terminal 5 to [tenant] SSA Terminals at the beginning of January.”

SEEN FROM WEST SEATTLE: The cruise ship that’s not cruising

In today’s bright sunlight, the cruise ship anchored off Manchester – Ovation of the Seas – was particularly eye-catching from west-facing West Seattle. As we’ve reported previously, after concluding the Alaska cruise season, it was supposed to head to the Southern Hemisphere for an Australia cruise season, but that was canceled due to COVID-related travel restrictions. So it’s been hanging around in Washington waters. Port of Seattle spokesperson Peter McGraw sent an update at week’s end:

Royal Caribbean International’s the Ovation of Seas will continue to spend more time around Puget Sound in the coming winter months under minimal operations. Currently, she is anchored in Yukon Harbor in Kitsap County, where the U.S. Coast Guard determines the berthing locations. She’ll spend approximately one week at anchor before heading out to coastal and international waters. She’ll then return to Pier 66 for the day on Friday, Nov. 12 for provisioning, bunkering, and crew movements. Then it’s back to Yukon Harbor and other movements out to sea before coming back to Pier 66 on Monday, Dec. 13 for more operations during the day. While in our waters, Ovation of the Seas utilizes marine gas oil (MGO), a low-sulfur fuel. In between these locations, it will be very possible to continue to see the Ovation of the Seas throughout our area.

For those who have wondered about discharges, Puget Sound is a no-discharge zone for sewage, even treated; here are rules for other types of wastewater.

It’s more common to see cargo ships at anchor where the cruise ship is now; we reported on the ongoing cargo backup earlier this week.

ELECTION 2021: One last look at Seattle Port Commission candidates

October 29, 2021 11:56 pm
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 |   Port of Seattle | West Seattle news | West Seattle politics

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Most of the spotlight this election season has shone on candidates for Seattle city offices. But that’s not all you’ll find on your ballot (if you’re among the 80+% of local voters whose ballots haven’t been turned in yet). You have 17 choice to make – including three races for Seattle Port Commission.

Five commissioners, all elected countywide, comprise the board, serving four-year terms. This year, Positions 1, 3, and 4 are up for election. In each race, the incumbent and a challenger filed for the seat, so there were no primary votes – all six candidates went directly to the general election. Thursday night, five of them participated in an online forum presented by the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and Seattle Parks Foundation – for Position 1, first-term incumbent Ryan Calkins; for Position 3, two-term incumbent Stephanie Bowman and King County policy adviser Hamdi Mohamed; and for Position 4, first-term incumbent Peter Steinbrueck and state Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs executive director Toshiko Grace Hasegawa.

DRCC executive director Paulina López co-hosted with SPF CEO Rebecca Bear. In opening comments, they pointed out the enormity of the Port of Seattle‘s impact on our region, both seaport and airport operations. The forum was only allotted an hour, so after introductory opening statements, questions were asked randomly of one or more participants. What we’ve written below is our summarizing/paraphrasing of the questions and answers, not direct quotes unless designated as such by quotation marks.

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About those anchored ships, and what else is happening because the supply chain’s snarled

(WSB photo from August: Containers stored at T-5)

You’ve probably heard a lot about the logjams in the supply chain leading to a backlog of ships waiting to get into ports.

As of this afternoon, for example, Los Angeles/Long Beach had 77 cargo ships in line.

Seattle’s backlog isn’t anywhere near that bad, but it’s still a logistical challenge, according to port and maritime officials who led a media briefing we attended online this afternoon.

The most visible effects of the backlog, as seen from West Seattle, are ships at anchor off Manchester and in Elliott Bay. But there are other anchorages in Puget Sound, and other options for ships while they wait, explained the briefers – Captain Patrick Hilbert of the U.S. Coast Guard, who’s the Sector Puget Sound commander; Captain Mike Moore of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association; and Port Commission presidents Fred Felleman of Seattle and Dick Marzano of Tacoma.

Whereas previously they would work out berthing logistics with a ship days before its arrival, now they’re doing that three to four weeks in advance. Early discussions might lead a ship to stay anchored in China for a while, for example, before crossing the Pacific. Or a ship’s master might choose to make the crossing at slow speed. Or they might wait a few hundred miles off the Washington coast – or if it’s safer than the open ocean, a ship might even sail “race tracks” (loops) in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (with Canada’s permission).

Felleman said the Northwest Seaport Alliance – the joint port authority of Seattle and Tacoma that manages cargo berths in both harbors – has offered its otherwise idle Terminal 46 downtown as a place for ships to wait, though so far no one has accepted the offer, despite low-to-no-cost availability. (Moore said it would probably be most attractive to ships that needed to reprovision, and he would remind his membership – shipping lines and terminal operators – that it’s available.)

The problem, Felleman explained, isn’t a high volume of cargo; he said they’re at about the same level as pre-pandemic, The trouble is that the timing is off throughout the system, disrupting an intricately interwoven series of actions that have to happen to keep everything flowing. With everything way out of synch, containers are piling up on docks because truck drivers aren’t showing up to get them, and that can mean a ship doesn’t get loaded or unloaded. Terminal 18 on Harbor Island, for example, had at one point 7,000 containers, empty and full waiting to be picked up. As we’ve shown you before, under-construction Terminal 5 here in West Seattle is being used as a temporary storage spot for container overflow, as is T-46.

Puget Sound only had three ships at anchor today, they said. Could this area handle some of that massive backup from elsewhere? we asked. Short answer, no, that would just be moving the problem around.

UPDATE: Here’s why a cruise ship anchored off West Seattle again

3:46 PM: Two days ago, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Ovation of the Seas moved from Pier 90 at the Port of Seattle‘s Smith Cove terminal and dropped anchor in the middle of Elliott Bay. Earlier this year, cruise ships were at anchor when all the docks were full. Right now, that’s not the case. So we’ve received a few questions. The ship’s future schedule appears to be in flux; its Australia cruise season for 2021-2022 was recently canceled because travel restrictions Down Under remain tight. As for its continued stay in Seattle, we asked Port of Seattle spokesperson Peter McGraw, who says, “It will be hanging around in the near future, after our last passenger cruise vessel NCL Encore departs on Saturday afternoon. It may be conducting operations around the Sound or even berthed at Pier 66.” (That’s the cruise-ship dock on the downtown waterfront.) It had to leave Pier 91 because the space was needed for other vessels: “When we need our facilities for other tenants, like fishing vessels back from Alaska or other needs outside the cruise season, they have to go elsewhere until there’s an opening, like at 66 later next week.”

7:10 PM: Since we photographed it at mid-afternoon, the ship has in fact headed out on “operations around the Sound” – MarineTraffic.com shows it off Whidbey Island right now, northbound.

WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE: Port agrees to contribute $9 million – here’s what it gets in return

(WSB photo inside the West Seattle Bridge, last Thursday)

The Port of Seattle is giving the city $9 million to help cover the costs of the West Seattle Bridge project – and getting some commitments in return. Details are in a “memorandum of understanding” approved today by port commissioners. Here’s the draft document:

From that document, here’s where the $9 million fits in the funding picture:

Here’s what the port gets: Priority handling of city construction-related permits for the Terminal 5 modernization project, certain levels of access to the West Seattle low bridge, a chance to review the bridge-repair plans “to ensure maritime operations are fully considered.” And the port and city will work together on transportation projects including truck parking to minimize backups, the East Marginal Way corridor, and design of the West Marginal Way 2-way protected bike lane “to maximize safety for all users and minimize freight impacts.” The $9 million is to be paid in three installments, starting “after the City has reopened the West Seattle High Bridge with full access consistent with prior operations (7 lanes) and shown progress satisfactory to the Port on other provisions of the agreement (this is expected in mid-2022).”

Here are the details of the low-bridge access specified in the MOU:

a. SDOT will authorize up to 550 roundtrips per day for workers required to support international marine cargo operations at T5.
• Between 7 am and 3 pm, SSA Marine and ILWU will minimize trips to 100 one-way trips per hour within those daytime hours.
• Outside of those hours, SDOT will authorize up to 200 one-way trips per hour

b. In coordination with the Port and the NWSA, while the high bridge remains closed, SSA Marine will provide flex-hours for up to 180 ILWU workers to ensure that they arrive at T5 prior to 7 am as well as provide on-terminal truck queuing starting at 6 am.

c. “T5 Labor” includes ILWU Locals 19, 52 and 98, mechanics and SSA. Each entity and members will follow existing application procedures with applications due by the 15th of each month for authorized low bridge access in the following month.

d. The SSSB is to be used only by T5 Labor only when dispatched across the Duwamish or when traveling across the Duwamish between marine cargo terminals.

e. ILWU trips to terminals other than T5 continue to be authorized when a worker is dispatched across the Duwamish; however, those non-T5 trips are assumed and expected to NOT be higher than as of the date of this MOU (averaging 10 trips per hour maximum). These trips are counted as part of the authorized trip numbers listed above.

f. ILWU and mechanic individual trips are limited to no more than two-round trips per day.

g. ILWU and SSA Marine’s coordination is necessary to enforce the authorized trip target. A pattern of exceeding the authorized trip target will result in the City directly engaging with SSA and ILWU and giving both entities an opportunity to take corrective action with their users.
• Following engagement, any persistent and on-going patterns of excessive use by authorized users could result in a reduction of ILWU/SSA access to the low bridge.

h. Once T5 reopens to marine traffic, SDOT, ILWU, SSA Marine and NWSA will regularly communicate to ensure coordinated execution.

i. NWSA will work with SDOT in advance of Terminal 5 opening to develop a terminal data reporting strategy and provide regular terminal data updates to inform low bridge access predictions and management.

For truck access, the MOU says that for one “the City will continue design to rechannelize S Spokane St east of the T-18 main gate entrance to improve traffic flow near the East Waterway Bridge, and will carry out the project at the City’s cost in 2022 after the WSHB opens to traffic.” Also, the port and city will work “to establish multiple drayage truck parking areas … for the benefit of both Duwamish Valley residents and truck drivers serving the marine cargo terminals.” For possible parking area, one on 11th SW with 25 truck-parking spaces, and potentially “near East Marginal Way, under the Spokane St viaduct and nearby areas as depicted in Exhibit E with the intention to develop up to 70 additional parking spots.”

The parking spots are supposed to be ready by the end of 2022, pending City Council approval. Then in early 2023 the city and port would collaborate on a plan for at least 100 more truck-parking spaces at site(s) TBA, possibly on city-owned property along the east side of East Marginal Way between Hanford and Holgate, also noted in Exhibit E.”

2 Jack Block Park notes: Restroom damage; pier’s future

Two notes about Jack Block Park, the Port of Seattle-owned waterfront park at 2130 Harbor Avenue SW:

WHY ONE RESTROOM IS CLOSED: Thanks to Jessica for sending the photo and wondering what happened to the men’s restroom in the park’s easternmost comfort station:

Port spokesperson Peter McGraw says it was damaged by fire, apparently this past Monday. “Repairs are currently underway,” he said, but no estimate for reopening yet.

PIER’S FUTURE: Steps away from that comfort station is the park pier that’s been closed for months because of safety concerns.

Back in spring, the port conducted a survey asking your thoughts on the pier’s future, promising to update the community afterward. Five months later, no word. Andrew emailed us wondering what ever happened to it. McGraw says the results should go public “likely sometime in the middle of October.”

TERMINAL 5: Storage status, environmental efforts, and a big decision nears

As noted in our rwport last night about a visit to the West Seattle Bridge by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg, their travels included a stop at under-construction Terminal 5. There, port and maritime reps touted their environmental efforts – from sea-noise reduction to shore power to trucking electrification – and pitched for more federal funding to help them make more progress. As a reminder of what’s at stake, Seattle Port Commissioner Fred Felleman presented Trottenberg with a framed orca photo of his:

(We talked with Felleman earlier this summer about orcas and T-5.) At right in the photo above is Edward DeNike of SSA Marine, the tenant for Terminal 5’s first modernized berth and operator of many other terminals. His remarks included a mention of what’s the most striking feature of T-5 right now:

DeNike said T-5 is now a holding zone for more than 8,000 containers. That’s up from the 6,000 we reported earlier this month. They’ve been trucked over from Terminals 30 and 18, which are already maxed out. Once T-5’s first berth opens early next year, they’re hoping it’ll take some of the pressure off. After the briefing, we asked DeNike about the status of a decision on which shipping line(s) will be first to use T-5. He said they’re talking with a few now and should have a decision within about a month.

TERMINAL 5: Next phase of in-water pile work starts Monday

Next Monday, the next phase of in-water work starts at the Terminal 5 modernization project in West Seattle. The window when this work is allowed – meant to reduce the effects on fish – opens on Sunday (August 15th), but port spokesperson Peter McGraw tells us the work will actually begin on Monday. “Initial work activities will be vibratory toe wall pile driving in the north berth and vibratory pile extraction in the south berth.” The work window is open until February 15th; the first modernized berth at T-5 is expected to open in January. The port’s alert notes that “the City of Seattle Noise Ordinance limits construction activities, including vibratory pile driving, to between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. weekdays and between 9 a.m. 10 p.m. weekends and legal holidays. The City of Seattle further limits Impact pile driving to between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.” There may be Sunday work along the way, but the port promises that will be preceded by additional community notification.

Grand-opening day for Duwamish River Community Hub

August 7, 2021 2:41 pm
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 |   Port of Seattle | South Park | West Seattle news

If you’re going to South Park for the Duwamish River Festival, stop by the new Duwamish River Community Hub just a block south at 14th Avenue South and South Cloverdale. The Port of Seattle has leased the former Napoli Pizza building as a center for various gatherings, inside as well as out:

Outside the Hub today, you’ll find Mercadito vendor booths as well as information booths including the port explaining the new People’s Park along the river nearby:

You can take a guided walking tour to the park at 4:30 pm. We covered the park groundbreaking at the former Terminal 117 a year ago.

Terminal 5 as a holding zone, pre-opening

(Terminal 5 and vicinity, photographed in July by Long Bach Nguyen)

Along with the construction under way at West Seattle’s Terminal 5, the photo shows stacks and stacks of shipping containers. At today’s meeting of the Northwest Seaport Alliance managing members – the port commissioners of Seattle and Tacoma – alliance CEO John Wolfe estimated 6,000 containers are currently there. That’s because of the global shipping logjam, which in turn is why you see vessels at anchor in Elliott Bay and off Manchester, waiting to dock in Seattle or Tacoma. Wolfe said the current volume is “overwhelm(ing) … most of our terminals are operating at full capacity”; they’re hoping the opening of the first modernized Terminal 5 cargo berth in January will take some of the pressure off. According to the newest set of NWSA stats, imports are where the growth is, while exports are currently declining.

FYI: ‘Impact pile-driving’ at Terminal 5 today, tomorrow

Just got this belated FYI from the Port of Seattle: “In-water, impact pile driving is taking place today and tomorrow at Terminal 5. Pile driving will occur only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and will conclude on Thursday, July 29.” Some of the current work is explained in our report from June just after the new T-5 cranes arrived; the first of two modernized berths at T-5 is scheduled to start serving cargo ships early next year.

New training site for maritime workers, just across the bay

July 23, 2021 12:33 am
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 |   Port of Seattle | West Seattle news

Across the bay from the northeast West Seattle shore, one of those cranes at Terminal 46 (south of Colman Dock) just got a new lease on life, and it’s partly because of the Terminal 5 project over here. The Pacific Maritime Association is leasing the one on the left, Crane 80, from the Northwest Seaport Alliance for a new training facility. Two weeks after NWSA managing members – the port commissioners of Seattle and Tacoma – approved it, there was a media briefing at the terminal Thursday. Among those speaking, Seattle port commissioner Stephanie Bowman:

The PMA – 70 ocean carriers and terminal operators operating at the 29 West Coast Ports – has been conducting training at West Seattle’s Terminal 5, but won’t be able to do that once the first modernized berth there opens early next year. PMA’s Nairobi Russ talked about the training’s role in worker readiness:

ILWU Local 19 president Rich Austin said this fills a growing need.

To get ready for use in training, NWSA documents say, Crane 80 needs about $600,000 in work. The cranes became port property after Total Terminals International left T-46 at the end of 2019.

For use of the crane, part of T-46, and office space, the PMA will pay about $1.2 million a year. T-46’s longterm future remains unsettled – a proposal to convert part of it into a cruise-ship terminal was shelved last year. But the training facility won’t be its only near-term use – it’ll be used for container overflow too, incoming and outgoing.

FOLLOWUP: Seattle-to-Alaska cruises officially resume today, after 2 years

(Sunday photo of Elliott Bay, sent by Mark)

Seattle’s been seemingly awash in cruise ships for days now, so you might be surprised to hear that the official Seattle-to-Alaska season starts today. Around 5 pm, Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas is scheduled to leave the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal in Magnolia, and that’ll be this year’s first boatload of paying passengers (previous voyages have been “test cruises,” explained here). To mark the occasion, the Port of Seattle invited the media to a dockside briefing this morning. It included a ceremonial moment – the ship’s Captain Stig Nilsen presenting port executive director Steve Metruck with a plaque and a model of the ship.

(WSB photos from here down)

Metruck declared that cruising is returning with improvements. Ships have implemented stringent COVID protocols, for one. But after our previous mentions generated reader discussion about environmental concerns, we asked Metruck what’s changed along those lines, He mentioned that the terminal at Smith Cove is equipped with shore power, and that it’s in the works for Pier 66 downtown. We learned from another port official, however, that this particular ship is not shore-power-ready, so it’s not plugged in, though the other ship currently berthed at Smith Cove, Majestic Princess, is. Maritime Managing Director Stephanie Jones Stebbins also told us that shore power capability for Pier 66 is scheduled to be ready for the 2023 cruise season – the problem until now, she said, is that they would have had to run a line from the Denny substation about a mile east, requiring a lot of road demolition, but instead, they came up with a way to route it via an underwater cable from Pier 46 to the south.

The emission situation, said Jones Stebbins, is not only a matter of plugged in vs. unplugged. She said exhaust scrubbing – explained here – is being used. Environmental advocates, however, say that just swaps air pollution for water pollution; Jones Stebbins says ships cannot discharge the scrubber water while berthed here. The state has a Memorandum of Understanding with the cruise industry on multiple environmental issues.

P.S. After today, the next official cruise departure is on Friday; here’s this year’s schedule.

(Added 7:15 pm: Serenade of the Seas departing Elliott Bay)

FOLLOWUP: Is Terminal 5’s modernization bad news for endangered resident orcas? One environmentalist turned port commissioner says no

(2020 photo of then-newborn resident calf J57: Center for Whale Research / Permit #21238 / WhaleResearch.com)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Tomorrow, the Northwest Seaport Alliance‘s managing members – the port commissioners of Seattle and Tacoma – get their quarterly update on the modernization project at Terminal 5 in West Seattle.

(June photo by Stewart L.)

Four big signs of that progress drew a lot of attention last month – the new T-5 cranes that arrived from China. Their arrival sparked some discussion among WSB commenters about whether the dock modernization project is bad news for Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.

No, says Fred Felleman, a Seattle port commissioner whose background, before taking office in 2016, was in environmental advocacy. (Checking WSB archives, the first time we mentioned him was when he spoke to the Port Commission in 2015, voicing opposition to the use of T-5 for staging Shell‘s Arctic oil-exploration fleet. That was one of the interim uses T-5 has seen since it went out of regular cargo service in 2014.)

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VIDEO: Protest, arrests on Harbor Island

(WSB photo, substituted for original phone photo)

6:50 PM: For the past two hours we’ve been just outside Terminal 18 on Harbor Island, where protesters and police have been in a standoff since mid-afternoon. It’s a replication of the current Middle East flashpoint, the Israel/Palestine conflict. An Israeli-owned ship, the Zim San Diego, docked at Terminal 18 on Saturday after a week at anchor in Elliott Bay. The protesters, supporters of Palestine, want to prevent the ship from being unloaded. They’ve been marching and chanting in intersections at/near 13th SW/SW Florida just west of T-18.

(WSB photo, substituted for original phone photo)

A sizable deployment of Seattle and Port police warned them repeatedly to get out of the road or face arrest. As of our departure about 15 minutes ago, they had yet to arrest anyone, but as we wrote this, SPD tweeted that they’ve just made 10 arrests. Several vehicles turned around just short of the protest after protesters approached the drivers to talk to them, although police warned the demonstrators not to do that. There were roughly 100 demonstrators when we arrived; the number fluctuated as they switched intersections and at one point sat in the street. Police used the LRAD speaker to warn them; adding to the clamor are several evangelical Christian counter-demonstrators with a loudspeaker. (Added: You can hear them in the background of this short clip when bicycle officers moved in at one point; no arrests resulted that time.)

Other groups of protesters have led similar demonstrations at other West Coast ports including Oakland and Prince Rupert, B.C.

9:39 PM: The Northwest Seaport Alliance has published a statement saying port and city police are “are providing a safe zone for protesters to ensure individual expression is protected and port operations are not impeded.” There’s been no word of further arrests, nor whether the ship is being unloaded.

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.

AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: Terminal 5’s big new cranes arrive at West Seattle’s Terminal 5

10:27 AM: First look at the four big new cranes on their way to Terminal 5 in West Seattle:

Thanks to Mike York for sending us that photo from north of Kingston. The Zhen Hua 36 is currently at 10 knots so it’s probably still an hour-plus away from coming into view off West Seattle. We’ll be updating.

11:07 AM: Lynn Hall on Duwamish Head says they’re in view.

11:24 AM: Now entering Elliott Bay. Thanks to Carolyn Newman for first word on that, and David Hutchinson for this photo as the heavy-lift ship rounded West Point on the northwest edge of the bay:

11:40 AM: The 316-foot-tall cranes are now in view from Don Armeni Boat Ramp, a park which will afford a long stretch of viewing as they approach Terminal 5.

(Photo by David Hutchinson, substituted for original WSB phone pic)

12:14 PM: Now headed toward the docks. Next good waterfront vantage point – Jack Block Park.

12:45 PM: The ship has now arrived at T-5. At the Jack Block Park overlook, watching the final leg of the journey, we found a watch party of sorts – longshore workers for whom the T-5 project means new work. The terminal has not been in regular cargo service since 2014.

P.S. More photos later, and we’ll also have a followup tomorrow, when port officials and others are scheduled to have a media briefing.

ADDED: Thanks again to everyone who shared photos, including some in the comment section below. Maris Avots photographed the crane with one of the Luna Girls on Alki:

FOLLOWUP: Terminal 5’s big new cranes expected to arrive Sunday

(Added: Photo of cranes being loaded for departure, courtesy Port of Seattle)

Want to watch the four big new cranes for Terminal 5 arrive off West Seattle? The Port of Seattle says they are expected here this Sunday, three weeks after leaving China. They are super-post-Panamax cranes, 316 feet tall with 240-foot outreach booms, so – like the four cranes shipped to Tacoma two years ago – it’ll be quite a sight. Port spokesperson Peter McGraw tells WSB that the arrival of Zhen Hua 36, carrying the cranes, is expected by noon Sunday. The Northwest Seaport Alliance – the joint Seattle-Tacoma port authority that’s overseeing the T-5 project – says the first “modernized” berth at T-5 will open early next year; the cranes will belong to the berth’s tenant, SSA Marine.