Port of Tacoma to spend $6M to upgrade straddle carrier fleet

The Port of Tacoma Commission voted Thursday to approve a plan to upgrade the equipment used to move containers by spending $6 million on five new straddle carriers.

According to staff, the port currently has 27 straddle carriers in its fleet, including eight that are more than 20 years old. The new straddle carriers the port plans to purchase are manufactured by Kalmar and consistent with the Port’s existing fleet. The new equipment will replace four straddle carriers that are at the end of their lifecycle and one that was damaged in an accident.

During a commission meeting Thursday, Kevin Zinski, director of maintenance at the port, explained the straddle carriers being considered for purchase are familiar to terminal operators. “Both labor and maintenance really like these machines,” said Zinski. “They’re reliable [and] they understand them.”

ILWU Local 23 President Scott Mason agreed. “The operators like this product a lot,” said Mason. “In this particular case, it’s money well spent to get the best. We’re hard on them. We use them. They generate a lot of revenue.”

Commissioner Dick Marzano asked if there was a market for the straddle carriers poised to be replaced.

“They’re tired,” said Zinski. “On the last batch we surplussed, we took a look at the market and we ended up scrapping them.”

Commissioners Thursday directed staff to begin negotiations with Cargotec for the purchase of the equipment. Once a deal is reached, the new equipment is expected to arrive at the port by the end of this year.

A straddle carrier moves a "K" Line cargo container at the Port of Tacoma's Husky Terminal. (PHOTO COURTESY PORT OF TACOMA)