First ship with Grand Alliance arrives at Port of Tacoma
Instead of turning left at Elliott Bay, the 66,000-ton containership Dusseldorf Express continued steaming south on Monday afternoon, headed for Tacoma.
This was the “first call” to Commencement Bay for the ship, and for the Grand Alliance of three primary shipping lines that once called at the Port of Seattle.
According to the dictates of maritime etiquette and tradition, there followed a ceremony to mark the moment as officials from the Port of Tacoma, the longshore union, Washington United Terminal and the shipping line Hapag-Lloyd met on the bridge and later in the officers’ mess to exchange greetings.
The three main lines that comprise the alliance – Hapag-Lloyd of Germany, NYK of Japan and Orient Overseas Container Line of Hong Kong – will be joined by ships from Germany’s Hamburg Sud and ZIM of Israel and will call at Washington United Terminal on the Blair Waterway.
At least four new moorings per week will bring jobs to the port, said spokeswoman Tara Mattina on Monday afternoon.
“Washington United has hired additional staff, Tacoma Rail has hired new staff, and the longshore union will add staff,” she said. “We expect this to bring somewhere between 400,000 and 425,000 additional TEUs (container units) per year.”
The added volume should constitute a 25 percent increase in the number of TEUs transiting the port, bringing the total to 1.9 million units annually from a current total of some 1.5 million, she said.
At its peak in 2006, the port saw around 2.1 million units pass through its terminals.
“This brings us up closer,” Mattina said. “We expect to hit those numbers again in 2014.”
The successful romance with the Grand Alliance, she said, “is really about long-term growth.”
The move to Tacoma from the port 30 miles north began when the shipping lines issued a request for proposals last year. The decision to move was made in March and represents a five-year commitment on the part of the Grand Alliance.
The Dusseldorf Express, with a crew of 21, arrived in the Blair Waterway late Monday afternoon with the tug Wedell Foss leading the tow. The ship last made port in Tokyo, midway through a 27-port, 98-day voyage that will see stops in Canada, the East Coast, Panama, the West Coast, Japan, Taiwan, China, then Japan again and back to Europe via ports in North America.
“It’s been something we’ve been working on for a long time,” said John Wolfe, Port of Tacoma CEO. “Watching a Hapag-Lloyd ship come in is surreal. These are three of the largest shipping lines in the world.”
The presence of the lines here, he said, proves Tacoma and the Puget Sound area are “a gateway for world trade. What this means for Pierce County is the jobs. We’re really fulfilling our mission.”
Scott Mason, president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 23, said the coming of the alliance will mean “an increase in the number of machinists, clerks, crane drivers, then you have the trucks that bring the cargo, the line handlers – to figure full-time equivalents, it’s several hundred total” jobs. That estimate includes around 250 full-time jobs within the union’s registered work force.
“I don’t think any port, other than Los Angeles, has had to ramp up this fast for this many jobs,” he said, noting that 40 union members are currently training another 40 workers for jobs at the terminal.
“It’s fantastic,” said Don Johnson, port commission member. “It brings more business, and it makes our partners more successful. We all win because we got the jobs. The future of the Port of Tacoma is in front of us, not behind us.”
At 964 feet, the ship nudged softly beside the pier as workers secured the lines. Customs and Immigration officers boarded first, and the dignitaries followed some 20 minutes later.
On the bridge, the local officials presented a “first call” plaque to Dusseldorf Express Capt. Detlef Rose.
Hapag-Lloyd operations manager Max Furer said, “The port’s worked for it. They deserve it.”
As the summer rain threatened, Rose commented, “The next time, I hope to see Mount Rainier.”
Down in the officer’s mess, following toasts with German champagne, stewards served snacks including liverwurst, steak tartare and ham on freshly baked bread, along with sushi.