The Port said mooring Shell Oil’s rigs at Terminal 5 would create several hundred jobs. But nearly half involve Shell workers who will head to Alaska or people already working for Shell, the local contractor or the Port.
When the Port of Seattle’s plan to moor Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling rigs at Terminal 5 was announced, a key selling point was the jobs that would be created.
The Port said it would mean hundreds of jobs. Shell’s contractor, Foss Maritime, said last month that 417 jobs had been created in the Puget Sound region. And after the massive, 307-foot-tall Polar Pioneer arrived, the Port said the impact was even higher — 461 direct jobs.
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But a closer look shows nearly half involve either Shell exploration workers who will head north with the rigs, or people who were already on the payroll of the oil company, its local contractor or the Port.
The Terminal 5 deal meant new work for John Demaree and a six-person crew at his maintenance company in West Seattle. Since Foss Maritime signed the lease with the Port of Seattle, Demaree Services has helped renovate Terminal 5’s old Eagle Marine Services building, setting up lights, rewiring, fixing toilets and turning on phones.
He’ll be at Terminal 5 “for as long as the mayor wants me to be fully employed, I guess,” Demaree said Tuesday.
Mayor Ed Murray and city officials say the Shell work violates Terminal 5’s current land-use permit. Environmentalists, meanwhile, are trying to stall work on the rigs so the equipment can’t leave on time to drill in the Arctic during a narrow summer exploration season. The latest protest Tuesday resulted in five arrests.
Demaree and his crew are among the 461 direct jobs generated in May due to the Foss lease at Terminal 5, according to Foss.
That tally includes 146 crew members of the Polar Pioneer and the Nobel Discoverer — who follow the rig and would still be employed if Shell were using another port for its operations. Also working at the terminal are 48 managers and staff brought by Shell from elsewhere for the project.
Likewise, Foss has 22 managers and staff at the terminal, and the Port of Seattle has three included in the tally. Many of them were not hired specifically for work at Terminal 5.
Setting those aside, more than 240 jobs have potentially been generated due to the interim use of Terminal 5.
“We had said this opportunity would means hundreds of jobs and tens of millions in revenue for the Port and for the region, and I think we are there,” Port of Seattle spokesman Peter McGraw said in an interview last week.
Murray is traveling, but his spokesman said protecting the maritime industry “is bigger than one permit dispute, and the mayor is absolutely committed to working with the Port, business and labor leaders to ensure we build lasting jobs for a 21st-century maritime economy.”
Paul Gallagher, vice president of terminal services for Foss, said the company has hired 36 security guards to work three different shifts around the terminal and also brought in terminal operator Jones Stevedoring, which hired 16 new employees as superintendents who supervise the workforce.
Shell and Foss have both hired vendors with specialties in areas such as engineering, hydraulics and electric, totaling 80 employees, according to the Port’s tally.
Chris Bone, a foreman at Auburn-based Sturgeon Electric, was brought in two weeks ago with 14 other electricians to help with electrical troubleshooting and quality control on the Polar Pioneer.
“If we come across any problems, we fix it to make sure it is all safe so nobody gets electrocuted or anything like that,” Bone said.
At Locals 98, 52 and 19 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, between 100 and 130 laborers are hired every day just for the Polar Pioneer
With other support vessels at the terminal, the total can jump to 175 union workers — all jobs that otherwise would not be at Terminal 5, said Scott Reid, president of Local 98.
The union workers inventory the cargo and operate cranes, forklifts and other equipment at the terminal to load the rig with materials ranging from drilling pipe to food to safety equipment, he said.
“I don’t think the community understands the economic benefit that the rig has brought,” Reid said, as cases of water and Gatorade were loaded into a red container and lifted onto the Polar Pioneer.
“These are family-wage jobs that support not only those families, but the families around them.”
When the Shell fleet temporarily leaves for the summer, though, the union crew will be reduced to those needed to unload and load trucks and maintain equipment in the warehouse at Terminal 5, Gallagher said.
To keep jobs at Terminal 5, Foss would like to bring in more projects. But now, with the battle between the city and the Port and Foss, the company is having a hard time determining what to do, he said.
“We are getting mixed messages from the Port and the mayor about business opportunities here at Terminal 5,” he said. “The Port says it wants to create jobs, and our mayor says he wants to create more jobs. Now we are getting these messages that they don’t want this rig because of what it does.”
Gallagher said he understands that people are passionate about what the Polar Pioneer exploration rig is going to be doing in the Arctic, but asks them to look at the people trying to work.
“There are a lot of people working here that are pretty happy to be here,” he said. “A lot more people are working here than there were protesting this morning.”