There should be no debate. Marine cargo is here to stay. Terminal 46, the 88-acre container yard near Pioneer Square and the downtown Seattle waterfront, is one of the most-efficient...
There should be no debate. Marine cargo is here to stay. Terminal 46, the 88-acre container yard near Pioneer Square and the downtown Seattle waterfront, is one of the most-efficient marine terminals on the West Coast.
We have just completed a renovation and reopened a second shipping berth there. It has three of the largest container cranes in the world, capable of unloading ships so large they are still on marine architects’ drawing boards.
The improvements to Terminal 46 are part of a decade of investments in Port of Seattle facilities that not only are paying off handsomely this year but also promise significant growth in the future. That growth translates immediately into more jobs, more economic benefits to the region, more tax proceeds for state and local government, more opportunities for trade.
Since mid-November, each container unloaded by one of the big orange cranes in the Seattle harbor has set a new annual record. We will handle nearly 1.8 million containers this year. We currently are up 16 percent over a year ago. In one month this fall, we moved more containers than any other port in the Northwest has ever handled.
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With the increase in exports from China and other parts of Asia, continuing logistical problems in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., close working relationships with our partners at the shipping companies and labor unions, and aggressive and successful marketing efforts by the Port of Seattle staff, this growth is going to continue. Major retailers have built their distribution centers here. This business is here to stay.
One other thing: Every time the Port takes on a project, it cleans up the area. This decade of investment in the harbor has brought with it restored wildlife habitat, 19 new parks and public open spaces, and cleanup of polluted sites. Note that no tax money goes for Port operations — just for investment in revenue-producing infrastructure.
The Port of Seattle — as steward of the public’s waterfront — brings jobs, economic benefits and community benefits such as environmental restoration. It is the model we follow not only in the container business but also at the airport, marinas and other aspects of our business.
But it is quite a different vision from that espoused in “Jobs & condos” (Times Opinion, Dec. 12) by a commercial real-estate developer.
At this holiday season, it is tempting to compare the developer’s vision to Scrooge’s in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” But this time, when Marley’s ghost visits, he doesn’t understand the past, misstates facts about the present, and is dead wrong about the future.
Seattle’s maritime heritage is a key part of what this community has become and where it is headed. Foreign trade is our lifeblood, not just because it creates blue-collar jobs like trucking, stevedoring and provisioning, but because it provides one in three jobs in the state.
Let’s look at just a few misstatements we see in that opinion piece:
The jobs and activity could be accommodated at our other container terminals.
Nothing could be more wrong. The Port Commission voted this month to re-open Terminal 25 because Terminal 18 has become so busy. We are considering expansions to both Terminals 18 and 5 to accommodate more growth in the future. The commentary suggests we might get to 1.8 million containers by 2014. The truth is that we will do that this year. We likely will reach 2 million containers next year. Our vision of 3 million by 2010 is looking better and better.
Terminal 46 is inefficient and expensive and doesn’t have on-dock rail. Transportation systems serving it are inadequate and expensive to improve.
Terminal 46 actually has been our most-efficient terminal in terms of containers per acre. It has the benefits of on-dock rail because it is directly across from a rail yard.
Cruise ships need deep water, too, and we should emulate the Port of San Diego and focus the downtown waterfront on conventions, hotels and cruising.
Wrong again. Cruise ships need about 27 feet of water — not more than 50 feet, as container ships do. Cruise ships can dock at any dock in Elliott Bay. Further, San Diego has a year-round convention and cruise business; the Seattle-Alaska cruise season is just six months long.
We at the Port of Seattle are champions of change. We led the change in containerization of marine cargo. We revitalized the central waterfront. We brought the cruise business to Seattle. We are working hard to bring new business, jobs and economic benefits to the unused North Bay site. And we stand ready to change the face of our current working waterfront to keep pace with the exploding Asian trade market. Now is the time for more focus on maritime trade, not less.
M.R. Dinsmore is CEO of the Port of Seattle. Patricia Davis is a member of the Port Commission. This commentary was also co-signed by Port commissioners Paige Miller, Bob Edwards and Alec Fisken.