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Five Fast Facts on the Terminal 5 Modernization Program

June 22, 2021

Did you see the new Super Post-Panamax cranes make their way through Puget Sound last week? They’re now at Terminal 5 in Seattle and getting ready to be installed as part of a modernization program that began in 2018. The upgrade is a program of the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) – a marine cargo operating partnership between the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma. 

Bigger ships require bigger infrastructure. This program upgrades the dock and supporting infrastructure at Terminal 5 and secures larger cranes to unload containers from bigger ships. SSA Terminals is the owner and future operator of the cranes, which will be among the largest cranes on the West Coast. Learn more about the critical infrastructure improvements being made to accommodate larger vessels and how they provide jobs, market access for Washington exports, and regional and national economic benefits.

Fact 1: Terminal 5 will be updated to handle the world’s largest container ships

The four ZPMC Super Post-Panamax cranes have a longer reach to load ultra-large container ships. Standing at 316 feet tall with a 240-foot outreach boom, each crane can lift 100 tons of cargo. To support the larger cranes, the north section of the dock has upgraded beams, pilings, deck panels, and new 100-foot gauge crane rails. The waterside crane rail is supported by 178 concrete piles. The slope on the north end of the berth is stabilized by 388 steel pinch piles.

Animation comparing old cranes at Terminal 5 and new super post panamax cranes

Fact 2: Big ships will plug in to clean power to reduce emissions

Larger cranes require more electrical power, so the power supply will be upgraded from five megawatts (MW) to 25MW. The power upgrades provide shore power capabilities that allow vessels to plug into electricity while at berth for quieter, cleaner, and greener operations. It also increases the capacity for refrigerated containers.

Newly constructed primary substation at Terminal 5
The new primary substation supports power upgrades for greater electrification at Terminal 5.

Fact 3:  More cargo capacity means more economic impact to the region

When complete, Terminal 5 will have 185 acres of capacity to move cargo. The ability to add capacity to port operations is unique among West Coast ports and offers a strategic opportunity for the NWSA to compete for more containers that increase economic opportunities in our local communities.

Large container ship arrives at Port of Seattle terminal
The NWSA is the fourth-largest container gateway in the United States, handling approximately $66 billion of waterborne trade with 189 trading partners globally in 2020. 

Fact 4: Washington State is the most trade-dependent state in the nation 

And this upgraded terminal expands the ability to get Washington products to market, which is essential for the state’s economy. Washington boasts strong agricultural activity that moves goods like apples and hops through our ports to export markets in Asia and beyond. Terminal 5 will provide more opportunities for exporters like the Washington Fruit & Produce Company to move their goods through the NWSA gateway.

Learn how the Washington Fruit & Produce Company of Yakima has expanded to global markets by partnering with the Port. 

Fact 5: More cargo means more jobs

Marine cargo operations at NWSA facilities support over 58,400 jobs and drive $12.4 billion in economic activity in Washington state. Every direct job at the NWSA gateway translates into 1.9 additional jobs in other sectors across our region.

Terminal 5 will increase job opportunities for workers in the labor, transportation, and retail sectors. This project is forecast to create 2,400 full-time temporary direct design, engineering, and construction jobs over the project period. And by 2050, the improvements will generate an estimated 6,600 permanent new direct jobs. (Source: NWSA Terminal 5 Uplands Modernization and Rehabilitation Project Fact Sheet)

Crane rail construction at Terminal 5
Construction for Phase 1 of the Terminal 5 Modernization Program started in 2019. 

Terminal 5 in West Seattle has long been considered a premier container cargo facility on the West Coast because of its naturally deep berth, wide footprint, and the availability of on-dock rail, which allows containers to be rapidly transferred from ship to train. 

The arrival of the four ZPMC Super Post-Panamax cranes mark an important milestone towards the Phase 1 opening of a modernized Terminal 5 in early 2022. 

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