The Port of Seattle's Terminal 25by Brad Wong, P-I reporter
Hundreds of jobs expected to be created
The Port of Seattle's Terminal 25 will reopen to container traffic in July in a move that officials say is a reaction to overflow cargo from Southern California ports and new goods heading to more Puget Sound-area distribution centers.
The port commission approved a 15-year lease Tuesday with Seattle-based SSA Terminals to operate 32 acres at the terminal, which is at East Marginal Way South and South Spokane Street.
SSA Terminals and Matson Navigation Co. Inc., a U.S. shipping company, used Terminal 25 from the 1980s until 2002, before they moved to a refurbished and expanded Terminal 18.
Year to date through November, the port has seen its cargo volume grow by 17 percent. It will invest $15 million to $20 million in improvements for the Terminal 25 project, which is expected to see 284 permanent and 346 construction jobs created.
The port estimates the permanent jobs, which will include positions in trucking, maintenance and terminal operations, will create $14 million in yearly wages and salaries. The construction jobs, from which other businesses will benefit, will end in July.
"The bottom line is that our cargo volume is growing so strongly right now that we had to reactivate Terminal 25," said Mick Shultz, port spokesman.
Shultz and a shipping company group spokesman said the increased cargo in the Puget Sound region goes beyond the spilloff from the congestion recently seen at Southern California ports.
In at least the past three years, Shultz said, more distribution centers, serving large chain retail and independent companies, have cropped up in the Puget Sound area, specifically in Lacey, Sumner, Kent, Tukwila and Fife. Those centers handle imported goods that are shipped to other U.S. cities.
In the past, shippers and cargo companies typically just sent goods to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach because they are the largest on the U.S. West Coast, said Ezra Finkin, a spokesman for the Washington-D.C. based Waterfront Coalition.
"Ever since the 2002 port shutdown, shippers realized that they needed to diversify, for risk management purposes, the ports that they use," he said, referring to the labor dispute that stopped goods.
The coalition represents about 50 cargo and shipping companies nationwide, including ones in Washington state. Shipping companies, he added, also learned from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and they are using multiple West Coast ports to ensure that goods can enter and leave the country in an emergency.
SSA Terminals, which has no ships and hires union members to run much of its operations, has seen a cargo increase of 25 percent for this year, said Ed DeNike, chief operating officer.
He expects the company's cargo volume to double from 400,000 containers a year to 800,000 by 2007.
"We do operate in California and we know the restrictions in California, and we feel comfortable that these are realistic figures that we're talking about," he said.
Under the lease agreement, Matson, which serves the West Coast, Hawaii and Guam, will move to Terminal 25, across from Terminal 18. Because of the way Matson stores its domestic cargo, Shultz said, the move would enable more international containers to be stacked at the 196-acre Terminal 18.
That terminal is expected to receive $42 million in port investment, including pier upgrades.
John Littel, executive assistant for the Seattle Building Trades Council, said yesterday that he had not seen the lease details.
But "we're supportive of the port maintaining the relationship with shippers and keeping container shipping as a primary focus," he said. "The working waterfront is what Seattle is about."
His group represents 27 unions in King County and 20,000 to 30,000 construction and maintenance workers. Many are expected to find employment at the port project. Port of Seattle construction work is expected to start soon, Shultz said, and the anticipated activity is coinciding with expansions.
Next month, the Port of Tacoma will open its expanded Pierce County Terminal, a move that will increase cargo capacity there and will shift some shipping companies to new homes.
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