Hand-painted cargo container connects kids in Tacoma, Korea

A hand-painted cargo container shipped Sept. 25 from the Port of Tacoma, carrying frozen French fries to Busan, Korea.

One side of the 40-foot-long Hyundai Merchant Marine container was hand painted by about 100 Pierce County children, under the direction of local artist Rachael Dotson, during August’s two-day Commencement Bay Maritime Fest.

The Friend Ship Box’s colorful design incorporates maritime and cultural symbols, including a Korean turtle ship, a tug boat, a Native American thunderbird design, iconic Tacoma buildings and sea life.

The refrigerated container will deliver frozen French fries from Kennewick, Wash.-based Lamb Weston.

Kids from Korea will paint the other side of the container when it arrives there next month before sending it back to Tacoma’s Washington United Terminals.

The Friend Ship Box celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Hyundai Merchant Marine-owned terminal at the Port of Tacoma.

The container’s around-the-world progress may be tracked at http://www.hmm21.com . The round trip is expected to take 45 to 60 days.

Korea is one of the Port of Tacoma’s top trading partners, with more than $3 billion in goods crossing port docks. Last year, the Port exported $1.3 billion in goods to Korea, including cereals, meat products, wood products, chemicals, and iron and steel.

Korea is the fifth largest export market for U.S. farm products, valued at $5.6 billion in 2008. The United States is the top supplier to Korea of many farm products including almonds, fresh cherries, soybeans, corn and wheat.