Navigate Up
Sign In Section Home Port Home Contact Us

1970 - 1979

Seattle’s economy starts off in the tank following the Boeing Bust, but a healthy Port of Seattle is able to help to keep the city afloat. The Port’s investment in containerization has a large, positive impact. Development of properties along the Duwamish River, and continued expansion at the Airport also help ease the region’s economic woes that the Port was lucky enough to dodge.

By 1973, air travel is soaring again, although a new element has been added to the passenger experience – airport security. Security checkpoints are one answer to the decade’s rash of hijackings. The Seventies brings two changes that will have enormous impacts on the Port’s future – the beginning of the environmental movement and the opening of trade with China. Being a leader in environmental and sustainability programs is a top priority for today’s Port, and the People’s Republic of China is now our biggest trading partner.
Big Year: Construction projects make this year the biggest in Port history. Millions of dollars are spent finishing and upgrading container terminals, Airport projects and new property acquisitions. Record breaking cargo numbers continue through the decade.
The Right Connection: The Airport expressway is linked to Interstate-5.
Mother Love: The first Earth Day celebration. "Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures," said Gaylord Nelson on the 25th anniversary of Earth Day.
Moving Grain: Grain exports get a new home with the opening of the $15 million Pier 86 Grain Facility. This property replaces the Port’s Hanford Street Grain terminal, opened in 1915 along the East Waterway, just north of the West Seattle Bridge.
Terminal 91: Port leases Piers 90-91 from the government, after nearly 30 years of military operations. This signals the Port’s intention to regain ownership of the piers once they are declared surplus by the government. In 1976, the purchase becomes final.
Tighter Security: On November 24, 1971, a passenger calling himself D.B. Cooper hijacks a Seattle-bound Boeing 727, landing at Sea-Tac. The result of this and other hijackings across the U.S. is the birth of Airport security.
Plant No. 1: The Port purchases the former Boeing Plant 1 property along the Duwamish Waterway, and in 1976 will incorporate it into Terminal 115. This site was the base of Boeing operations in Seattle until 1936.
Boom!: The Hanford Street Grain Terminal is imploded to make room for more containers. Demolition didn’t go as planned. It took several attempts, but finally, a blast did the trick and demolished the 55 year-old concrete silos.
T25: Terminal 25 construction is underway – more ships and containers are on their way. American Mail Line, a predecessor to American Presidential Lines (APL) is the first to operate the Port’s new Terminal 25. Terminal 25 is now merged with Terminal 30 and APL’s Global Gateway North, is now at Terminal 5.
Going Pro: The need for greater security spurs the need for a professional police force – the Airport Security Police Force becomes the Port of Seattle Police Department.
Super Terminal: The Port plans to purchase Pier 19 and merge it with Terminals 18 and 20 (the former East Waterway Dock).
Sssh!: Sea-Tac pioneers the nation's most ambitious noise abatement program. The Airport is the first in the U.S. to establish a noise buffer around its facility by purchasing hundreds of homes as well as school buildings.
It's Not a 40s Airport Anymore: The $150 million construction project is completed and Sea-Tac has sprouted wings and added trains. The Airport now has a North and South Satellite and a subway system to connect them to the newly expanded Main Terminal.
OCP: The Overland Common Point (OCP) import numbers keep going up. OCP rates were established to allow West Coast ports transferring Asian imports to the Midwest and East Coast, to stay competitive with East Coast ports and all-water routes from Asia.
Montana: Computerization and warehousing and distribution facilities at Terminal 106 coupled with an agreement with the Port of Butte, a major stop on the transcontinental lines of BNSF and Union Pacific, aid in the efficient and profitable movement of cargo to points east.
Peace: The Vietnam War ends and the last American troops leave Southeast Asia.
East-West Trade: A trade office opens in Southeast Asia, making Seattle the first West Coast port to open an office in Hong Kong.
Oodles of Autos: Thousands of imported cars await processing and distribution at Pier 91 and Terminal 115. Seattle started seeing this profitable cargo operation in the late 1960s, and it has been a principal cargo for several years. This year more than122,000 cars are imported.
Pipeline: Construction begins on the 800-mile long Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. A majority of the supplies started moving through the Seaport and Airport facilities in 1969. The Port creates a committee dedicated to coordinating transportation and logistics for the supplies.
Going Green: Efforts to reduce impacts on the environment and provide safe, clean facilities and public access to the waterfront result in the Port winning its first award for environmental improvement.
Business Travel for the Future: Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft.
One Million Miles: On July 9, the Airport's Satellite Transit System reached its first million miles of travel since going into service in 1973.
Orphan Airlift: Sea-Tac becomes a temporary nursery for 419 Vietnamese orphans cared for by volunteer workers and met by their adoptive parents.
Six Million Passengers: Arriving and departing passengers top the six million mark this year.
Police Protection: The Port Police Department forms both a dive team and an emergency services unit. The emergency services unit specializes in hostage negotiations, riot and crowd control, and disaster assistance.
Land Swap: Port re-acquires Piers 90 and 91 from U.S. Navy and uses Pier 36 as a down payment. Pier 36 becomes the new home of the U.S. Coast Guard.
A Bomb Squad: The Police Department forms a Bomb Squad, staffed by three officers trained extensively in handling and disarming explosive devices and bombs.
Big Numbers for Seattle: Seattle ranks number one in container traffic on the West Coast, beating out Los Angeles and Oakland. Seattle now ranks second in the nation after New York.
Shorter Lines: Sea-Tac is the recipient of the first permanent computer system for use in clearing passengers through Customs, speeding up the process tremendously.
Down the Pipe: Oil starts moving through the Alaska Pipeline. The connection between the Port of Seattle and Alaska spans several decades, with salmon trade, passenger service, cargo shipments, and supplies for the pipeline all moving across the docks. The two economies are symbiotic at times.
Rest in Peace: Long-time Chief Engineer and General Manager for the Port, George T. Treadwell dies. A rose garden is dedicated at Elliot Bay Park in his memory. Treadwell lead the Port through the design, planning and construction of the first Main Terminal at Sea-Tac in 1949, the $1 million expansion at Fishermen’s Terminal in 1952, and numerous other projects that helped catapult Seattle to become a world-class city.
Game Change: The deregulation of the airlines brings chaos to the industry, causing many airlines to go out of business due to competition. But the airlines get smart and fine tune their routes and planes, and the number of airlines serving Sea-Tac goes from 12 to 28 in just three years. For travelers, the news is good - the price of airline tickets goes down.
Job Creation: Direct and indirect employment through the Port is now numbered at 70,000 jobs for the region.
An Apple a Day: Apple exports are huge, with Saudi Arabia purchasing the majority of the Washington fruit. Terminal 91 is set up to handle much of this business
Filling In: Piers 42 and 46 begin the $13 million transformation into Terminal 46, with two million tons of fill. Piers 29 and 30 are also undergoing transformation as a modern container terminal, Terminal 30.
Field Study: Environmental studies are ongoing in the Lower Duwamish River Project, aiding the Port in determining proper actions to re-establish or maintain natural habitats. The Port funds a University of Washington Archaeology field course on Kellogg Island. 
China Comes Knocking: The M.V. Liu Lin Hai docks in Seattle at Pier 91. It is the first Chinese ship to enter a U.S. port in 30 years. Let the trading begin.
Terminal 37: The south berth of Terminal 37 (today's Terminal 46) opens, with Japan Six Lines operating the terminal after their move from Terminal 18.