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SEEN OFF WEST SEATTLE: First cruise ship of 2024

Thanks to Lynn Hall for the photo of Norwegian Bliss, sailing in Elliott Bay this morning as the first cruise ship to arrive in Seattle this year. Cruises between Seattle and Alaska started in 2000 (four years after downtown Pier 66 opened), the Port of Seattle notes, calling this the 25th year (although technically it’s the 24th because of the pandemic hiatus in 2020). The schedule for this year, running through October 28, includes 275 sailings (more than seven times the 36 sailings that first year), 800,000 unique passengers, and close to $900 million in economic impact, the port calculates. As mentioned here back on Wednesday, Pier 66 – where this ship docked – is expected to be shore-power-capable by midseason; the other two cruise berths, in Magnolia, already are. Meantime, after its late-afternoon sailaway, Norwegian Bliss – which can carry up to 4,000 passengers and 1,700 crew members – is now outbound, approaching Port Angeles; its return next Saturday will be the season’s second cruise-ship call here (see the full season schedule here).

Cruise season starts Saturday at Pier 66, but unplugged for now

(Port of Seattle photo, Norwegian Bliss in 2018)

As commenter CarDriver pointed out below the morning traffic/transportation roundup, Seattle’s cruise season is about to start – you’ll see the first of those giant passenger ships on Elliott Bay by Saturday (April 6), when NCL’s Norwegian Bliss is expected to sail from Pier 66 on the downtown waterfront. The port already offers shore power at its other cruise terminal, in Magnolia, and has been working on it for Pier 66 (see info on the $44 million project here), but it won’t be available at the start of the season. Port of Seattle spokesperson Peter McGraw tells WSB that the shore-power capability at Pier 66 is expected to launch around midseason (which would be midsummer, as cruise season continues until early October). See this year’s ship schedule here.

TERMINAL 5: Second modernized berth now ‘fully operational’

(NWSA photo)

Back on March 20, we reported on the first cargo-ship call at the newly modernized second berth of West Seattle’s Terminal 5 [map]. At the time, the Northwest Seaport Alliance – the Seattle-Tacoma partnership that runs both ports’ cargo docks – said it wasn’t fully “commissioned” yet. Now it is, so, NWSA says, MSC Lily, at the berth right now, is the “inaugural vessel to call the fully modernized terminal.” We asked NWSA spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh what had been done since March 20 to complete the modernization; she replied, “The commissioning involved the shore power system for the last vessel. With that complete, the terminal is fully operational and the MSC Lily and future vessels can now plug-in and be worked.” The modernization of the two-berth terminal was a half-billion-dollar project.

UPDATE: Two cargo ships in at West Seattle’s Terminal 5, including first one to call at modernized south berth

(Added: WSB photo of ships at T-5, seen from Jack Block Park viewpoint)

2:21 PM: Thanks to Larry for the tip. As of this afternoon, two cargo ships are in at West Seattle’s Terminal 5MSC Julie and MSC Savona – in what may be the official debut of the second modernized berth. We’re checking with the Northwest Seaport Alliance and Port of Seattle for comment. Both berths at T-5 have been modernized in a half-billion-dollar project; the first one to be completed, the north berth, started accepting cargo calls in January 2022.

3:20 PM: NWSA spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh confirms that MSC Julie is the first to call at the modernized south berth. However, NWSA says the project is “currently in the final stages of commissioning”; we’re asking for clarification on what remains to be done.

SEEN OFF WEST SEATTLE: Car carrier at Terminal 46

(Northwest Seaport Alliance photo)

Last week, a reader asked about a sighting of two car-carrier ships in Elliott Bay. At the time, we only found one via the MarineTraffic.com tracker – Platinum Ray, still anchored in the bay today, but shown as eventually bound for Tacoma, where such cargo is routinely handled. Then today the Northwest Seaport Alliance explained the other one:

Terminal 46 marked a significant milestone on Friday, February 2nd, as it welcomed the arrival of the GLOVIS vessel Silver Sky transporting automobiles destined for Canada.

More than 2,500 automobiles discharged at Terminal 46, in The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) gateway, where they will await transport to Canadian KIA and Hyundai dealerships later this month.

Terminal 46 is on the downtown waterfront. The NWSA announcement refers to this as “the first automobile vessel in more than 20 years to call the North Harbor [Seattle],” but our archives note that one unloaded at West Seattle’s Terminal 5 in 2015. (Update: NWSA has updated to say it was the first such call at T-46 in 20+ years.) As for whether more such deliveries are ahead, the NWSA says it “hopes (Terminal 46) will be utilized to support additional cargo movement in the coming months.”

FOLLOWUP: If you’re wondering what’s up with the long-closed Jack Block Park pier …

(WSB photo, 2021)

Three years have now passed since we reported that the pier at Jack Block Park (2130 Harbor Avenue SW) might have to be rebuilt, after what by our count was at least its third closure in a year and a half – and this time, a closure from which it has never reopened. The park is owned by the Port of Seattle, and inquiries are handled by the Northwest Seaport Alliance, the partnership of the Seattle and Tacoma port authorities. So we asked NWSA spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh for an update on the pier’s status/future. Here’s what she told us:

Analysis on the best solution (repair or replacement) for the Jack Block Park Pier was conducted and the NWSA has determined a replacement of the pier is best. Design of the Pier Replacement Project will begin this year and funds for the replacement were approved in our 2024 budget. The full completion date of the project has yet to be determined.

We didn’t find the line item in the NWSA’s budget but it’s in the Port of Seattle budget – 196 pages in, $500,000 is allotted this year, $2.5 million next year, and $3.4 million in 2026 for what’s billed as “pier and plaza replacement” at the park.

FOLLOWUP: Terminal 5’s second modernized berth close to first cargo-ship call

January 5, 2024 1:53 pm
|    Comments Off on FOLLOWUP: Terminal 5’s second modernized berth close to first cargo-ship call
 |   Port of Seattle | West Seattle news

(November photo by Stephen King)

A month and a half ago, two new cargo cranes arrived at Terminal 5 in West Seattle, one of the last major events before ships can start calling at the new south berth. We hadn’t noticed any additions on the schedule that’s regularly published by the Northwest Seaport Alliance, so we asked for a status update. NWSA spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh replied, “The construction team is in the final stages of preparing the terminal to open and we expect vessels to begin calling the south berth within the next month or so.” Exactly two years have now passed since the start of cargo calls at T-5’s north berth, modernized in the first phase of the half-billion-dollar modernization program. The same tenant is operating both berths, SSA. The primary line calling at the north berth has been MSC; we have an inquiry out about which line(s) are expected at the south berth.

FOLLOWUP: Here’s where the ‘Quiet Zone’ project stands, four months in

Thanks to Don Brubeck for that photo from the low bridge showing progress on part of the Terminal 5 Quiet Zone project. As previously reported, it’s a group of crossing changes meant to reduce the need for horn-blowing by trains serving the newly modernized T-5.

(Here’s an official explanation of “quiet zones.”) Don’s photo led us to check in with SDOT on project progress – here’s our questions and their answers:

What’s been completed so far?

Since beginning construction in July 2023, we have installed electrical and signal conduit, drainage and paving to support the future signalized intersection at W Marginal Way SW and Elder Bernice White Place. We have also paved a section of the access road north of the W Marginal Way SW and Elder Bernice White Place intersection. We closed Chelan Ave SW, the north leg of the former 5-way intersection to vehicular access.

What’s next?

We’re currently working on storm water work, including the installation of a storm water filter vault and moving catch basins to meet new curb alignment, and excavating trenches for signal and fiber conduit near the Chelan Ave SW/W Marginal Way SW intersection. We’re also working on the new signal at W Marginal Way SW and Elder Bernice White Place. We’ll also be working with railroad crews to install the new railroad crossing at Elder Bernice White Place.

What’s the latest projection for completion?

Completion is expected in May 2024 pending railroad crews’ installation of new crossing arms and safety equipment at railroad crossings at both Chelan Ave SW and Elder Bernice White Place.

The “Quiet Zone” work originally was supposed to be complete before the first modernized berth at T-5 was opened; that’s now been almost two years, and the second berth is almost done. Note that this doesn’t affect all train traffic in the area – some trains serve industrial facilities along the Duwamish River, not T-5, and those sections of track are not part of the project.

PORT CRANES: After-dark arrival (plus Saturday morning views)

4:42 PM: The ship carrying new cranes for West Seattle’s Terminal 5 is still a few hours out, according to MarineTraffic.com, which shows it just past Port Townsend. That’s 36 nautical miles from West Seattle, and the ship Zhen Hua 27 is currently traveling about 12 knots, so it’s not likely to be here before 7:30 pm. We’ll continue to update here until it arrives.

5:42 PM: An hour later, it’s still sailing at 12 knots, now off the south end of Whidbey Island.

6:42 PM: Off Shoreline, same speed.

7:33 PM: In Elliott Bay now, but little lighting, so not much to see.

7:55 PM: Phone pic as it rounded Duwamish Head:

The cranes are for the south berth at Terminal 5. We’ll be following up on when regular cargo calls are expected to begin.

ADDED 9:59 AM SATURDAY: Thanks to everyone who’s sent morning views! This one’s from Troy Adams:

This one was texted by David:

FOLLOWUP: Terminal 5’s new cranes due to arrive in West Seattle on Friday

As we first reported this past Monday, the two new giant cranes for Terminal 5‘s south berth are on their way. The Northwest Seaport Alliance had said they were expected to arrive next week, but just sent word that’s moved up to tomorrow:

SSA Terminals (Seattle Terminals), LLC, a joint venture between SSA Marine, Matson, Inc. and Terminal Investment Ltd., and The Northwest Seaport Alliance will welcome two new ZPMC Super Post-Panamax cranes to the North Harbor marking a significant milestone in Phase Two of the Terminal 5 Modernization Project.

After spending several weeks traveling from Shanghai to Seattle, the cranes will conclude their journey through Puget Sound to Elliott Bay on Friday, November 17th. SSAT/ST is the owner and future operator of the cranes, which will join the four existing Super Post-Panamax cranes currently operating at Terminal 5.

Standing 316 feet tall with a 240-foot outreach boom, the cranes are among the largest along the U.S. West Coast. Each crane can handle vessels with containers stacked 10 high and 25 wide on deck, providing increased capacity and job opportunities for the region.

In addition to the two new Super Post-Panamax cranes, SSAT/ST will also be unloading three ZPMC hybrid rubber tire gantry (“RTG”) cranes from the vessel at Terminal 5. RTG cranes manage, move, and deliver container cargo at marine terminals and these hybrid RTGs will mark one of the first investments in hybrid cargo handling equipment in the NWSA gateway.

The Zhen Hua 27 vessel will be transiting through Puget Sound and will be visible from multiple viewpoints across the area. The public is invited the keep a lookout for this large vessel and utilize the NWSA’s viewpoint map to get a view of the cranes as they make their way through Puget Sound.

MarineTraffic.com shows Zhen Hua 27 currently just off the mouth of the Columbia River.

FOLLOWUP: West Seattle’s new port cranes on the way

(June 2021 photo by David Hutchinson)

5:06 PM: Two and a half years after those four cranes arrived for the first berth to open at West Seattle’s modernized Terminal 5, two more are about to arrive for the second berth. Construction is finishing up on the south berth; the Northwest Seaport Alliance had previously said the cranes were expected to arrive in October, but we’re now into mid-November, so we followed up today to check on the status. They’re on the way from ZPMC in China, according to NWSA spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh, and expected to arrive sometime next week. She says we’ll have a few days advance alert about their arrival. The south berth is being leased by SSA Terminals, exercising its option to lease it in addition to the north berth, where it started accepting cargo almost two years ago.

ADDED EARLY TUESDAY: If you want to track the ship, commenter Drew identified Zhen Hua 27 as the ZPMC ship headed this way.

FOLLOWUP: About today’s port-truck backup

(Screengrab from SDOT traffic camera just after 11 am)

As mentioned in our morning traffic roundup, port-bound trucks have been backed up on the westbound side of the Spokane Street Viaduct for hours. Last time this happened, two weeks ago, the Northwest Seaport Alliance – the Seattle/Tacoma port partnership – cited a “technical issue” at Terminal 5. Today, NWSA spokesperson Kate Nolan tells WSB, “Both Terminal 5 and Terminal 30 are closed (to)day, which has redirected a portion of the associated truck traffic to Terminal 18. They have confirmed to our operations team that they are implementing several measures to process this truck volume as quickly as possible today.” (T-18 is on Harbor Island; T-30 is toward the south end of the downtown waterfront.)

FOLLOWUP: Terminal 5 railroad ‘quiet zone’ construction finally about to start, SDOT says

More than a year and a half after Terminal 5 started accepting cargo shipments at its first modernized berth, a long-delayed related project is finally starting construction. SDOT sent a notice today announcing that work is expected to start next week for the railroad “Quiet Zone” that once was intended to be in place before the berth opened. (This new announcement is four months after SDOT had last said construction was imminent.) Here’s SDOT’s summary of the “Quiet Zone”:

The project, located along W Marginal Way SW from Chelan Ave SW to SW Dakota St, aims to reduce train horn usage in this area by building a new traffic signal; closing some railroad crossings; and upgrading safety equipment at other railroad crossings. The project will also provide safe and accessible ways for people biking/walking to access destinations near Terminal 5 and will include building a bike/pedestrian mixed use trail along West Marginal Way SW where there is currently no sidewalk.

According to the notice, most work will be done on weekdays, and there will be some “temporary lane closures” on West Marginal, as well as some temporary parking restrictions. SDOT told us back in March that construction would last about a year, and the contractor is Merlino Construction.

PORT CONTRACT: Tentative agreement announced

The longrunning West Coast port-contract negotiations have finally resulted in an agreement. Announced tonight:

The Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union today announced a tentative agreement on a new six-year contract covering workers at all 29 West Coast ports. The deal was reached with assistance from Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su. The parties will not be releasing details of the agreement at this time. The agreement is subject to ratification by both parties.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that recognizes the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices of the ILWU workforce in keeping our ports operating,” said PMA President James McKenna and ILWU President Willie Adams in a joint statement. “We are also pleased to turn our full attention back to the operation of the West Coast Ports.”

As reported here earlier this year, port cargo volume drops have been blamed on shippers steering away from the West Coast due to uncertainty over the contract situation.

FOLLOWUP: Another ship running on shore power at West Seattle’s T-5

At upper left, seen from Jack Block Park, that’s the stack of MSC Yashi B, calling today at Terminal 5. What you don’t see in the photo is smoke from the stack – because Yashi B is the second ship to use shore power at T-5. The first was MSC Brunella, during a call two weeks ago. Which ships will use shore power and which won’t? Northwest Seaport Alliance spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh says that is for the terminal operator and shipping line to determine, with an annual report due to NWSA on shore-power use. But, she adds, “As this component of our modernization program is still new, both the NWSA and our project team will remain involved in the coming weeks. That being said, we have a commitment from our tenant that they will plug in vessels that are capable, meaning the vessel has shore power capability and it physically matches the dock-side infrastructure.” Who covers the bill, she adds, is between the terminal operator and the shipping line.

CRUISE SEASON: First 2023 Seattle sailing set for Saturday

(Norwegian Bliss arriving one May morning in 2022, photographed by Stewart L.)

Love them or hate them, cruise ships are on their way to Seattle for another season. The first scheduled cruise this year starts Saturday (April 15th), when Norwegian Bliss – capacity 4,004 passengers and 1,716 crew – will head out on a weeklong cruise to Alaska. It’s scheduled to dock at Pier 66 on the central downtown waterfront while here. It’s the first of about 300 cruise-ship calls scheduled for Piers 66 and 91 (in Magnolia) this summer and fall, with the season not ending until the final departure on the day before Halloween. Here’s the schedule, which the port warns is subject to change.

P.S. Related to a topic featured here earlier today – Pier 66 is not yet shore-power-capable; it’s supposed to be before next year’s season. (Pier 91 already is.)

FOLLOWUP: Shore power finally used at West Seattle’s Terminal 5

(Photo by Justin Hirsch with ILWU Local 19)

Fifteen months after the first modernized berth at Terminal 5 saw its first cargo call, it’s had another first – the long-delayed first use of shore power. That capability was originally supposed to be up and running by the time the first berth opened; we’ve been reporting on the delays for months, attributed to a variety of factors from labor negotiations to hardware/software problems. Today, the Northwest Seaport Alliance just announced the first plug-in has happened:

The Northwest Seaport Alliance’s Terminal 5 welcomed MSC Brunella as the first vessel to plug-in to the terminal’s shore power infrastructure. On Monday, April 10th, the commissioning phase of the Terminal’s shore power project component was finalized as the nearly 9,000 TEU vessel successfully utilized clean energy from the City of Seattle’s electrical grid to power the vessel while at berth.

Terminal 5 is the first international container terminal in the NWSA gateway with shore power capability, making this inaugural plug-in a significant environmental milestone in the Pacific Northwest.

Shore power infrastructure reduces diesel particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions by allowing vessels to turn off their diesel engines and ‘plug-in’ to the local power grid while being worked at the dock. Seattle City Light has been a critical collaborator throughout this project. …

In addition to needing landside infrastructure at marine terminals, a ship must have special equipment installed to accept shore power. The NWSA is glad to see the cargo shipping industry increasing the number of shore power capable vessels, with more than half of the vessels that call NWSA being shore power capable. Once the infrastructure is fully installed throughout the gateway, the NWSA expects all capable ships will plug-in. …

You can read the entire announcement here.

TERMINAL 5: Quiet Zone construction set to start soon; shore-power debut delayed

Two updates related to the ongoing modernization work at Terminal 5 in West Seattle:

QUIET ZONE CONSTRUCTION TO BEGIN: SDOT is overseeing the construction of T-5’s “Quiet Zone – which involves modifying railroad crossings in hopes of reducing the need for train operators serving T-5 to blow their horns. Back in January, we reported that the project had gone to bid and wasn’t expected to be complete before 2024. Today SDOT says the succssful bidder was Merlino Construction and that they could start work as soon as the first week in April, with construction lasting about a year.

NO SHORE POWER YET: Ships using T-5’s north berth still aren’t plugging in. Various reasons have been given for the delays; Melanie Stambaugh from the Northwest Seaport Alliance, which oversees the Seattle and Tacoma cargo operations, gave us another update this week:

Unfortunately, the system is still experiencing technical difficulties. As a reminder, this is the first international cargo facility in Puget Sound to install a shore power system, so we are still very much in the learning phase. The large number of stakeholders involved are anxious to get it working as soon as possible and The Northwest Seaport Alliance is doing all that we can to expedite the process.

Last time we checked in, the delay was attributed to “administrative” problems. But it’s something else now, Stambaugh told us: “We’re glad to say that the previous administrative problems have been resolved. Currently, the NWSA, alongside our partners, are working through some technical challenges with both the hardware and software.” Shore-power-capable ships originally were supposed to be able to plug in from the start of T-5’s modernized operations early last year.

FOLLOWUP: 14 months after Terminal 5’s modernized north berth opened, shore power remains unused

One month ago, in the latest quarterly update on Terminal 5 in West Seattle, the Northwest Seaport Alliance reported that shore-power use at T-5 was imminent. But that month has passed, and it hasn’t happened. As noted here back in November, first the delay was attributed to labor negotiations; then it was blamed on a technical problem. Now, according to NWSA spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh, “We are one of many stakeholders involved with the shore power component of terminal operations. We believe that the infrastructure is ready to go at this point, but understand there are some internal administrative matters that still must be addressed on our tenant side. We are hopeful that we will see a ship plugged in before the end of the month, but currently issues remain outside of our control.” Shore power was a much-discussed, much-awaited feature of the half-billion-dollar T-5 overhaul; its use means that ships wouldn’t have to burn fuel to power their generators while in port.

ELECTION 2023: Fred Felleman announces Seattle Port Commission reelection campaign

This year’s primary and general elections will include two Seattle Port Commission seats. The first campaign announcement is from Fred Felleman, the longest-serving commissioner, who’s seeking a third 4-year term in Position 5. He was first elected in 2015 with 58 percent of the vote, then reelected in 2019 with 72 percent. He says he’s hoping “for the opportunity to continue advancing the Port’s triple bottom line focused on commerce, community, and climate.” His background is in marine conservation, and he notes that in the past few years, “the Port continues to make unprecedented investments in infrastructure such as Terminal 5 and the new international arrivals facility, in addition to tens of millions for community programs while advancing its climate goals 10 years early.” You can read his full announcement here. Felleman, a Ballard resident, is the first to send a campaign announcement for this seat, which is elected in a countywide vote; it’s early in the season, with the formal Filing Week not until mid-May, and the primary on August 1st.

PORT: Cargo volume down dramatically – here’s why truck backups are a symptom of that

We’ve been talking in morning traffic coverage about truck backups outside local cargo terminals. This came up at today’s meeting of the managing members of the Northwest Seaport Alliance – Seattle and Tacoma port commissioners – and the ultimate reason for the backups are not because the terminals are too busy. Just the opposite. A dramatic drop in cargo volume has led the terminals’ operator SSA to cut operating hours, the NWSA says. Besides what we have already mentioned – the terminals opening an hour later, at 8 am rather than 7 am – the commissioners were told that the docks are no longer running through lunch hour, and they’ve also been closing on Fridays, so what’s been a 50-hour workweek is now down to 32. Truckers get paid by the trip so despite terminals opening later, they’re all rushing to get there first thing in the morning in hopes of squeezing in a second or third trip despite the shorter day.

So why is volume down? NWSA executives say a major reason is uncertainty related to contract talks continuing on the West Coast – shippers are going to the Gulf and East Coasts instead. (Added: Here’s a recent industry report on trends.) But, cautioned NWSA CEO John Wolfe, that’s not the only reason – the “softening market” because of reduced consumer demand is a big factor too. And, concern was voiced, once they’ve lost business to other coasts, they’ll have to fight to get it back. In the meantime, regarding the truck backups, NWSA executives say they have no way to force SSA to change its hours to address the truck-backup problem – “What cures this is more volume.” Meantime, the NWSA meeting continues with other topics, including a T-5 briefing, yet to come – you can watch here.

TERMINAL 5: Next quarterly update on half-billion-dollar modernization project Tuesday

(Photo from Northwest Seaport Alliance presentation for Tuesday’s meeting)

Every quarter, the port commissioners of Seattle and Tacoma – convening as managing members of the Northwest Seaport Alliance – get a briefing on “modernization” work at West Seattle’s Terminal 5. Agenda documents are now published for the next one, scheduled for their meeting this Tuesday (February 7th). From those documents – memo here, slide deck here – we learn that the South Berth, previously expected to be complete by now, won’t be finished until fall, when its cranes are now scheduled for an October arrival. At the North Berth, now one year into cargo operations, the first shore-power usage is supposed to happen any time now. The total T-5 project budget is now authorized for $454 million, more than $110 million beyond the $340 million cost estimate given four years ago. Tuesday’s meeting, happening at the airport but also available for online viewing, is scheduled to start at 9:30 am with a closed-door executive session; the public session will start around 11:30 am.

THURSDAY MORNING: ‘State of the Port’

January 18, 2023 6:07 pm
|    Comments Off on THURSDAY MORNING: ‘State of the Port’
 |   Port of Seattle | West Seattle news

(WSB photo, first call at modernized north T-5 berth, January 7, 2022)

After a year in which key accomplishments included opening the first modernized Terminal 5 cargo berth in West Seattle, the Port of Seattle is looking ahead to 2023. You’re invited to watch a livestreamed “State of the Port” presentation tomorrow morning (Thursday, January 19th), 8:30 am. The presentation, happening at the Museum of Flight, will be streamed at portofseattle.live (no registration required to watch).