The 185 acres of Port of Seattle property that has sat vacant, in need of repairs, will soon turn its naturally deep port waters into a spot to handle the shipping industry’s largest container vessels. Two at a time. 

The Northwest Seaport Alliance — a joint cooperative between the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma — partnered with terminal operator SSA Marine to pour $500 million into refurbishing Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle, planning to open the first berth in 2021 and the next in 2023 with what they expect will be the largest crane on the West Coast. 

The seaport alliance has put $340 million into the project with SSA Marine handling the additional $160 million. 

The project broke ground in July. The first phase of construction includes demolition of the north section of the dock, installation of new electrical infrastructure, pile driving and construction of the north segment of the dock. The completed north berth will include new crane rails, fendering, bollards and an underwater toe wall. A new primary substation will supply power to the new cranes and provide shore power to vessels. 

“When complete, (Terminal 5) will be a cornerstone of our region’s economic activity for decades to come,” Stephanie Bowman, Port of Seattle commission president and co-chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance, says in a statement. 

Already container vessels in the 14,000 TEU size regularly call at terminals in both Seattle and Tacoma, but the updates to Terminal 5 will allow for vessels up to 18,000 TEU. 

The second phase of construction will include delivery of new cranes to the north dock and demolition and construction of the south portion of the dock. The completed south berth will include new crane rails, fendering, bollards and an underwater toe wall. Phase 2 will be followed by dredging of the north and south berths to a depth of minus 57 ft, deeper than the current depth of minus 45 to minus 50 ft. 

The ports estimate that Terminal 5 activity will result in 6,600 new direct jobs and more than $2 billion in business activity. “As a local terminal operator in Seattle for the past 50 years, SSA Terminals is proud to be part of making Terminal 5 a modern asset in this harbor,” SSA Terminal’s Ed DeNike says in a statement. “We see this investment as part of a long-term growth strategy and look forward to its development.” 

Jan Koslosky, vice president of supply chain management for Ocean Beauty Seafoods says as both an exporter and importer using both regional ports, having access to first-class infrastructure proves vital. 

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, formed in 2015, when combining the operations of both the ports in Seattle and Tacoma, create the fourth-largest container gateway in North America and second largest on the West Coast. The Washington state terminals, though, have faced stiff competition from continued growth of ports in the British Columbia, Canada, cities of Vancouver and Prince Rupert. Terminal 5 aims to change that. 

Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb