Ports of Tacoma, Seattle approve first big purchase of Seaport Alliance

A slate of multi-million dollar upgrades along the Blair Waterway on the Tacoma Tideflats will eventually allow the two of the world’s biggest containerships to dock there at the same time.

The enhancements valued at $141 million were approved unanimously by the Northwest Seaport Alliance — a joint vote of the port of Tacoma and Seattle commissions. The group also approved a 20-year lease extension for terminal operations at Husky Terminal.

Husky Terminal and Stevedoring will operate the terminal until 2046. By 2018, the terminal could be ready to serve the largest ships in the world.

Commissioners from the ports of Tacoma and Seattle lauded the investments as the prime reason the two ports decided to combine their container businesses. After decades of poaching shipping lines from each other, the two ports joined forces last year.

“This is a real historic moment for the alliance. It’s the first major investment that the two commissions will be approving in our harbors and our gateway,” Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton said.

Officials approved $119 million toward the second phase to reconfigure piers at Husky Terminal on the Blair Waterway. The reconfiguration will allow two post-Panamax vessels to dock there.

The group also OK’d $22 million to buy two cranes large enough to unload ships carrying up to 18,000 TEUs — 20-foot-long containers. The alliance plans to replace all four of the Port of Tacoma’s blue cranes on Pier 4 at a total cost of nearly $50 million.

The four replacement cranes will be the same light blue as the port’s current cranes, Alliance spokeswoman Tara Mattina said. The part of the crane that sticks out over the waterway, called a boom, will have white stripes to improve visibility.

Terminal upgrades include infrastructure to allow ships to use shore electricity to power their ships while in dock.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports