Since July, Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle has been sitting empty in preparation to one day become big-ship ready. That construction project is still on the books to start in 2018, but in the meantime Seattle-based Foss Maritime wants to use the terminal.
Foss’ proposal, which the commissioners will be briefed on Tuesday, is to use the terminal as a home port for Royal Dutch Shell Oil’s arctic drilling fleet as well as a staging area for other Foss projects, such as building modules for a proposed liquefied-natural-gas plant in British Columbia.
The Port has been looking for temporary maritime businesses to operate at Terminal 5 since Eagle Marine Services and Westwood Shipping Lines relocated so the terminal could be modernized. With an interim tenant using the unoccupied terminal while feasibility studies and permitting are completed, the Port would have reduced care-taking cost, generate revenue to bolster the bottom line and create jobs for the region.
“That is a huge piece of property to just have vacant,“ said Linda Styrk, managing director of the seaport. “Two large business prospects like this could lease almost the entire terminal and help fund the T-5 modernization.”
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Foss operates a fleet of more than 200 tugs and barges, has 1,600 employees and is part of the maritime conglomerate Saltchuck Resources. The company has bid to receive and handle logistics for modules for the liquid-natural-gas plant being built in Prince Rupert, B.C. Major components would be delivered by truck, rail and breakbulk ship to be assembled using 50 to 100 acres of the 172-acre terminal, then barged to Prince Rupert for final assembly.
Foss expects to learn this month if it has won the work.
Foss and Shell also have proposed leasing an additional 50 acres to moor vessels used in oil and gas exploration in Alaska.
The terminal would be used to receive, inventory and stage equipment and supplies that would be loaded to a fleet of vessels, including exploration drill rigs, icebreakers, environmental-response vessels, tugs and barges for seasonal operations in Alaska.
The fleet spends June through October off the coast of Alaska and would use Terminal 5 as a home port for late summer through the winter — much like the North Pacific Fishing Fleet at Terminal 91.
Eight Shell vessels could moor at Terminal 5 for two years starting in March, and could be extended up to four years as long as it does not threaten the terminal-modernization schedule.
Foss estimates these two proposed uses “could bring hundreds of maritime jobs to the waterfront,” but company spokesman Paul Queary said he cannot comment further while the negotiations are ongoing.
Foss has worked with Shell Oil in the past. In 2012 tug Lauren Foss towed the Shell drill ship Nobel Discoverer after a near-grounding in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The tug Barbara Foss was later used when the Noble Discoverer was demobilized and needed to return to Dutch Harbor from the Chukchi Sea 70 miles from the coast of Alaska.
Shell’s arctic oil and gas explorations in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas have been troubled since it started in 2012. Followed by the problems with the Noble Discoverer, Shell’s drill ship Kulluk ran aground during a storm on off Alaska’s Kodiak Island, stemming an investigation and a front page New York Times Magazine story “The Wreck of the Kulluk” last week.
The company did not drill in 2013 or 2014, and its subcontractor, Noble Drilling, which operated the Noble Discoverer and Kulluk, pleaded guilty last month to eight felony counts and a fine of $12 million for environmental and maritime crimes in 2012.
In April 2013, Saltchuck dropped plans to buy Kimberly-Clark’s 66-acre former mill site on Everett’s waterfront as a new location for its 250-employee Foss Maritime shipyard, which is currently located in Lake Union.
The deal was announced in October, but the two companies were unable to agree on who would pay for cleanup, restoration and repair of the property, ultimately leading to the deal’s termination.