Seattle Receives Giant Container Cranes Preparing for T5 Reopening

Seattle container port expansion modernization
Four of the tallest cranes arrive for Seattle's T5 modernization (Port of Seattle)

Published Jun 18, 2021 8:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

Efforts are underway to expand port capacity where possible in response to the continuing surge in import volumes all along the West Coast of the United States. It is also creating new opportunities for regional ports to increase their competitive position as carriers look for alternatives to avoid the congestion and bottlenecks which have challenged their ability to maintain schedules.

This week the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) which operates the Port of Seattle along with SSA Marine that operates Terminal 5 in the port took a key step forward with their long-term plan for port expansion. Four of the tallest cranes on the West Coast arrived in Seattle harbor as part of the Terminal 5 modernization project.

“We believe the Northwest Seaport Alliance and Terminal 5, have a very strong future ahead,” said Ed DeNike, President of SSA Terminals. “The purchase of these new cranes underscores our commitment to the market and our customers. We know larger ships carrying increased volumes are coming. We want to be out in front of that curve and are preparing our terminal to service our customers’ needs.” 



The four ZPMC Super-Post Panamax Cranes were built in China and were shipped to the port aboard a heavy lift vessel from Shanghai. Standing 316 feet in height with a 240-foot outreach boom, each crane can lift 100 tons of cargo providing increased capacity for the port.

“The arrival of the T-5 cranes into Elliot Bay demonstrates our collaborative commitment to invest in the critical infrastructure needed to secure the future of living wage maritime jobs in Seattle,” stated Port of Seattle Commission President and NWSA Co-Chair, Fred Felleman. “Reopening T-5 will not only enable us to reduce the truck traffic congestion serving T-18, but with the new cranes able to serve larger vessels, more cargo can be moved on fewer ships. Furthermore, air, noise and climate impacts will be reduced by enabling ships to use shore power rather than running their generators while at berth – benefiting our killer whales and communities alike.”

The new Terminal 5 cranes will begin moving cargo at the beginning of 2022, when phase one of the two-phase construction project is complete. In 2014, the port began planning the expansion and modernization of Terminal 5, which at the time could only handle ships with a maximum capacity of 6,000 TEU. Five years after operations were suspend at the terminal, work finally began in July 2019 on the modernization project.

At completion, Terminal 5 will feature 185-acres of additional capacity and on-dock rail to handle discretionary cargo and shorepower. According to port officials, beyond import cargo, Terminal 5 will also increase opportunities for exporters from the mid-west and eastern Washington to move their goods to market. The new terminal will be able to accommodate the largest vessels in the Transpacific trade.

The NWSA is the fourth-largest international seaport in the United States. In 2019, the seaport handled more than 3.3 million TEUs, which was down 12 percent versus 2019. The port, however, has experienced a strong rebound in 2021, with volumes up more than 18 percent in the first five months of the year to over 1.5 million TEU. 

Seattle is modernizing T5 for reopening in 2022 (Port of Seattle)