Ports of Tacoma, Seattle ink infrastructure design agreements

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Ports of Tacoma, Seattle ink design agreements for Navigation Improvement Projects

The Port of Tacoma (POT) and the Port of Seattle (POS) have joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in ceremonies marking design agreements for the Seattle Navigation Improvement Project and the Tacoma Harbor Navigation Improvement Project.

These improvements are part of a multi-year effort to modernise the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) gateway that began over a decade ago.

Containerships operating the trans-Pacific commerce are growing in size, currently seating 12,000 to 15,000 TEU on a daily basis. To sustain competitiveness in global maritime commerce, the industry’s trend towards ships carrying 18,000 TEU or more demands improving port infrastructure.

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To meet these changing demands, the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle, as well as NWSA, have collaborated with USACE to perform integrated feasibility studies and environmental evaluations.

The findings reportedly indicated that deepening both the Blair Waterway in Tacoma and the West Waterway in Seattle would significantly improve the gateway’s competitiveness, allowing the waterways to meet the increased draft requirements of larger ships and ensuring they can continue to support international trade and trade-dependent jobs throughout the region.

Congress sanctioned the Seattle Harbor Navigation Improvement Project in 2018, and the Tacoma Harbor Navigation Improvement Project in 2022.

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USACE-Seattle District Commander Col., Kathryn Sanborn, said: “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proud to partner with the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle in making these projects a reality. I look forward to our continuing partnerships as work through the design phase and beyond, helping Pacific Northwest commerce, which will have a positive impact to the region and nation.”

The Port of Tacoma executed a design agreement with the USACE for navigation improvements in the Blair Waterway on 12 December 2023.

The project’s scope includes the design of the Blair Waterway navigation channel deepening along with minor footprint modifications to facilitate larger vessel transit, sediment characterisation, ship simulation, and the further consideration of the beneficial use of dredged material at the East Commencement Habitat Opportunity (formerly Saltchuk) area.

Port of Tacoma Commission President and NWSA Co-Chair, Deanna Keller, stated: “This deepening project fits into our comprehensive work to modernise the Blair Waterway which has included the Husky Terminal Modernization project, crane raising at Pierce County Terminal and new Super Post-Panamax cranes located at Husky and Washington United Terminals.

“The Port of Tacoma and The Northwest Seaport Alliance are committed to ensuring our facilities remain competitive and can accommodate the largest and most advanced ships in the trans-Pacific trade.”

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On 14 September 2023, the Port of Seattle executed a design agreement with the USACE for the West Waterway Channel Deepening Project.

This project aims to deepen the navigation channel to -57’ mean lower low water (MLLW) to keep the Seattle Harbor fully accessible to deep-draft vessels.

The project’s scope includes sediment characterisation, engineering, and preparing of plans and specifications for construction.

Port of Seattle Commission President and NWSA Co-Chair, Sam Cho, said: “The West Waterway Channel Deepening Project is critical to the future competitiveness of our gateway and driving economic activity across our region.

“We’ve made significant investments in the modernisation of Terminal 5, including strengthening the berths and adding six new Super Post-Panamax cranes alongside our terminal partners. The deepening ensures that ultra-large vessels have unrestricted access when calling Terminal 5 and that cargo and job opportunities remain strong in our harbour for decades to come.”

In April 2023, the shore power infrastructure at Terminal 5 of NWSA welcomed the first ship to plug into the infrastructure while at berth.

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