West Seattle, Washington
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Last Friday we reported that the Terminal 5 Quiet Zone project was open for bidding. Originally it was to be completed before the first of the two “modernized” berths at the dock had its first cargo call, but that’s been a year now, and the Quiet Zone remains yet to come. When we published Friday’s short update, one question remained: If the bidding stays on its current schedule, when will the project be built and completed? Though SDOT is responsible for the project, which will modify railroad crossings in a way that should reduce the need for train horns, they deferred the question to the Northwest Seaport Alliance, the Seattle/Tacoma cargo-shipping authority. NWSA spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh tells WSB the chosen contractor is likely to get the “notice to proceed” by this summer, and construction should be complete “in 2024.”
P.S. More project details are in this report from last July.
One year after the modernized north berth at Terminal 5 in West Seattle had its first cargo call, the T-5 project’s “Quiet Zone” component has finally gone out to bid. It’s a package of crossing improvements aimed at reducing the need for train operators to sound their horns along a six-tenths-of-a-mile stretch of track between T-5 and Riverside Mill (specifics are in this followup last July). In the most-recent briefings, in November, NWSA reps said the project was expected to be in bidding by year’s end. SDOT is overseeing the construction so the bidding documents are in the city system, which says bids are due January 25th. This summary of the project estimates the cost at about $5 million. We have questions out to SDOT regarding when they’re expecting construction to start and conclude, given the current bidding timeline.
New estimate for shore-power use to start at Terminal 5 in West Seattle: Early next year. We’ve been reporting on the problems getting the modernized terminal’s new feature activated, so that many of the cargo ships using T-5 won’t have to burn fuel running their generators while in port. First, it was a subject of labor negotiations. Then once those were worked out, the Northwest Seaport Alliance – which oversees cargo terminals in Seattle and Tacoma – said a technical problem surfaced. They were still figuring out how to solve that problem at the time of our most recent report earlier this month. We followed up again this week; NWSA spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh told WSB that they’ve made progress: “The project team, alongside the terminal operator and ocean carrier, has identified a solution for the shore power plug-in configuration and will be installing and testing the shore power capability in December.” But, she says, that’s not expected to lead to operational use before January: “It is anticipated that the use of the shore power system is expected to begin in Q1 2023.” By that time T-1 will have been open a year.
Ten months after the Northwest Seaport Alliance – the cargo-focused partnership of the Seattle and Tacoma ports – opened the first modernized berth at Terminal 5 in West Seattle [map], work continues on the second. And the first is not yet fully operational – as we reported last Monday, the shore-power system hasn’t been used yet. That was one of the T-5 topics discussed at two meetings this past week – on Tuesday, the NWSA managing members (Seattle/Tacoma port commissioners), and on Wednesday, the District 1 Community Network (a coalition of advocates from organizations in West Seattle and South Park). Here are the highlights of what we saw and heard:
Terminal 5’s north berth had 52 vessel calls through August. More than 30 percent of those ships’ cargo was moved through the terminal on rail (one of the dock’s major attributes), 40 percent of the containers that move through the terminal are empties, being shipped back overseas. That still leaves a lot of cargo being handled with trucks, and a focus right now is to find close-by parking so the trucks don’t wind up overnighting in neighborhoods – they’re working to create about 100 spaces on Harbor Island, along 11th and 13th SW. They’re also working on creating parking at T-25 (map), which could hold more than 300 truck spots.
Back to rail – many residents near T-5 have eagerly awaited the Quiet Zone, crossing modifications that should result in less train-horn-blowing. Though it’s part of the T-5 project, SDOT is leading the construction, and expecting to put the project out to bid before year’s end. Here’s the overview of what it’ll involve:
Because of questions at a past briefing, the NWSA reps also brought this graphic showing the Quiet Zone in the context of the 5-way intersection by the major entrance to T-5:
But at both meetings, the shore-power issue sparked the most discussion. The attempt to connect a ship was apparently made on October 8th. The problem that got in the way was described as two computer systems talking to each other (or not, in this case). Wasn’t it tested earlier? staff was asked at the NWSA meeting. The reply was that training had been done, but “each ship is a little different” and they just didn’t know how it would play out until they actually tried to plug a ship into the system. So now they’re troubleshooting. An ILWU Local 19 rep at that meeting, there to comment on another agenda issue, pointed out that their workers had been connecting cruise ships at Pier 91 in Magnolia to shore power “for years.”
Tomorrow, the Seattle and Tacoma port commissions meet together as managing members of the Northwest Seaport Alliance. Their agenda includes the quarterly update on West Seattle’s Terminal 5, and agenda documents reveal two notable updates:
STILL NO SHORE POWER: As we reported about a month ago, despite the modernized Berth 1 at T-5 having been built with the capability for ships to plug into “shore power” and therefore avoid burning fuel while docked, it still wasn’t happening. But it was finally going to start this month, NWSA told us. It hasn’t, according to an agenda document with this update:
The first shore power plug-in was scheduled for early October and had to be postponed due to configuration issues. A solution to the issues is being coordinated between the shipping line, the terminal operator, Port of Seattle, and NWSA.
We have an inquiry out asking what the “configuration issues” are and what kind of timeline is expected for their resolution. Added Tuesday morning: Here’s the response to our questions from NWSA spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh: “The shore power configuration issues indicated in the briefing memo are related to electrical issues that emerged when the initial plug-in was tested. The NWSA, Port of Seattle, and SSA are working toward a solution that will correct the electrical wiring and enable ships to plug-in. The timing is difficult to estimate at this time. Our team is hopeful the timeframe will be weeks or a month or two at the latest.”
SOUTH BERTH ESTIMATE: While the first modernized berth at T-5 opened early this year, the second berth – the south side of the dock – has been under construction. Last year, there were hopes it would be done by the end of this year. Agenda documents for tomorrow’s meeting say it’ll be closer to the end of next year:
Phase 2 (South Berth) construction project is currently behind the contract schedule date of December 31, 2022. Likely completion is September 2023, in time for the delivery of the South Berth cranes. … Activities are behind schedule due to concrete strike and the additional scope of the pile repair.
One week ago, we reported on a protest at Terminal 5 that led the Northwest Seaport Alliance to close the dock for the day. Climate activists – whose chanting was heard in north West Seattle neighborhoods – were calling attention to the continued lack of shore-power use at T-5, even though it was built with that capability. Early in the year, NWSA told us it was still the subject of labor negotiations. That’s apparently been the continued holdup, almost nine months after the terminal’s first modernized berth opened. City Councilmember Lisa Herbold had a followup in her most-recent weekly newsletter, mentioning an agreement in those negotiations, but the update wasn’t clear on whether ships subsequently had plugged in. Not yet, NWSA spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh subsequently told WSB: “The NWSA has been made aware that an interim agreement has been reached for shore power use at Terminal 5. No vessels have plugged in (yet), however, we expect the first vessel to plug into the shore power at T5 starting in October.” So far the first ship on T-5’s October schedule is due in a week from Friday.
Some readers on the north side of the peninsula asked about what sounded like protesting/chanting early this morning. While we were trying to sleuth the source, a one-line alert from the Northwest Seaport Alliance that Terminal 5 was closed for the day helped us zero in on the port. The resulting inquiries finally pointed us to a tweet (since deleted) in which Climate Action Families took credit, saying “Today we shut down SSA Marine Port of Seattle Terminal 5. Cargo carrier MSC could plug ships into shore power, but chooses not to.” MSC is the shipping line that uses the recently overhauled north berth at Terminal 5 in West Seattle. In the initial months after it opened, we followed up repeatedly on whether the shore-power capability was being used; the answer was “no” last time we checked. Early on, it was described as an issue caught up in labor negotiations. We’re following up to learn its status; we also have an inquiry out with Climate Action Families.