Year In Review: Port of Tacoma's Grand Alliance

EDITOR’S NOTE: Through the end of this year, the Tacoma Daily Index will feature its annual “Year In Review” series, which recaps an important story covered earlier this year in the newspaper according to reader interest on our Web site. Enjoy!

The Grand Alliance, a shipping consortium comprised of the Hapag-Lloyd, NYK, and OOCL shipping lines that called at Terminal 18 in Seattle, announced in March its intention to move to the Port of Tacoma’s Washington United Terminal (WUT) in July.

“We are confident that, together with our labor partners, we will continue to provide stellar service to our valued customers and community, and in doing so, will continue to realize new business opportunities at the Port of Tacoma,” said Port of Tacoma CEO John Wolfe. Port of Tacoma officials expected the new business to begin in July.

Port of Seattle officials commented, “It is important that the business remains in Washington. Unfortunately, though many of the jobs will be preserved, others may not. Some who work in the Seattle harbor could see their livelihood impacted severely or in some cases, disappear. As stewards of public infrastructure, ports are compelled to ensure that the investments made in our harbor are used to the fullest benefit for the taxpayers of the state. The short-term local gains for an individual port announced today could very well work to the detriment of the state’s economy in the long run. We continue to call for a dialogue about how the two ports can cooperate in order to maximize return on taxpayer investment.”

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy applauded the announcement.

“The Port of Tacoma plays a major role in our regional economy, and the decision by a consortium of three shipping lines will provide quality, family-wage jobs for local residents,” said McCarthy. “This goes beyond the direct benefit to those who work along the waterfront because those people live, play and shop in our community. This is a benefit to all.”

In November, officials from Hyundai Merchant Marine, Port of Tacoma, and WUT celebrated the completion of a $32 million extension of the WUT wharf on the Blair Waterway.

Speeches and a ceremonial ribbon-cutting marked the official opening of the new wharf. The construction project added 600 feet to the terminal’s existing 2,000-foot berth to support two “super post-Panamax” container cranes the terminal added in January 2009.

The 273-foot-high cranes can serve a ship 24 containers wide, making them among the world’s largest. Built by Shanghai-based ZPMC, the cranes joined four others at WUT with an 18-container-wide reach.

The project began in December 2009 when Port of Tacoma Commissioners approved the contract with Seattle-based Manson Construction to extend the wharf.

In July, Port of Tacoma Commissioner Don Johnson (far right) and Port CEO John Wolfe (far left) presented Hapag-Lloyd's Dusseldorf Express Captain Detlef Rose (center) with a plaque to commemorate the vessel's first call to Tacoma. (PHOTO COURTESY PORT OF TACOMA)